Donald’s face was a mask of horror when he finished reading the letter for a second time. Ten minutes ago, when he had seen the addresser he had looked and felt like ‘the cat that ate the canary bird’- excited.
After the first read, he had felt amused. This definitely was some kind of joke! But…Catherine does not- would not- joke like this; at least not the Catherine I know. She was witty no doubt, and had a good sense of humor…but this…this is definitely not funny, cause I’m not laughing.
Or…He checked the date. 23rd March. He hissed. It’s not even April Fools’ Day.
Maybe there’s a line I’m missing, something to make this clearer. He decided to read it again- for the third time.
Been a long time you called or wrote. I’m not angry. I understand that your school comes first and every other thing comes after.
I don’t know how I’m going to say this, but I’ll say it anyway. What has happened has happened. No use wishing back time.
I am pregnant! And I hope you’re not one of those who deny what’s theirs, because the baby is yours.
Yes! You don’t think all those really good times we had would be snaggless, did you? Well there are no roses without thorns….
He hissed, his eyes suddenly reddening. He squeezed the paper and threw it inside the waste-basket. He heaved a sigh, put his head down, then almost immediately, stood up, walked to the basket, retrieved it, and continued reading.
…No, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t wish for this to happen: but I won’t wish it away either. The fault is yours as much as it’s mine. If we were to lay blames though, the faults would be more of yours than mine.
You knew I was a virgin and inexperienced, yet you didn’t think of using a condom. If I had known that it’d result to this, I’d have used a contraceptive, but I was naïve and you took advantage of me … No. No more blames.
The pregnancy is six weeks old and I wouldn’t have had an abortion even if my dad and mum didn’t know about it. Nevertheless, they do know, and they are furious – very furious. Don’t worry about me though. Worry about yourself.
Donald, do you remember how you used to say you loved me like crazy? This is your chance to prove it.
I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have done this if I had a choice.
PS: Attached are some of the pictures we took at the Bar Beach on Valentines’ Day.
Shock, disbelief, confusion…Anger!
He stared at the pictures- the amorous pictures. He was smiling; she was smiling. They were barely clothed. They looked like a couple.
How could she do this to me? he asked himself. ‘She’s pulling your legs a voice told him.’ Well I’m about to find out…He went to the sitting room and dialed her home from the land-line. Switched off. He shrugged and walked back to his room. “Some stupid joke,” he muttered. “I’m not responsible…”
Somebody knocked on the door and came in before he answered. It was his younger brother, Tammy, the notorious pest.
“D-O-N the sharp shooter,” he sniggered wickedly. “You sure know how to score goals…”
“What?” he frowned, concealing the pictures with a pillow. “What are you talking about?”
Tammy chuckled. “Kate of cause!”
Donald gasped. “Who…? What Kate?”
Tammy chuckled again. He was definitely enjoying himself at his big brother’s expense. “Catherine, Kate, your ‘Queen’, our bishop’s daughter! Do you know who I’m talking about now?”
What’s wrong with everybody? Donald asked himself. Is this some coordinated joke? “What about Kate?”
“Don’t play dumb Bro,” Tammy retorted. “Everybody in this house knows and…In short Ma wants to see you.” He stood up to leave.
“Wait, wait!” Donald stopped him. “What are you talking about?”
Tammy sighed. “I know you know what I’m talking about, but since you want to feign ignorance, I’ll tell you again. Bishop Obuh’s daughter, your Katie is pregnant!”
He gasped. “Who…? How did you know?”
“What’s that?” Tammy pointed at the letter, ignoring the question.
“It’s er…um…” he stammered.
“It’s the letter she wrote you,” Tammy answered for him. “She wrote one to Ma and Pa too. Who do you think brought them from the Post office?”
Donald’s face paled considerably. “Christ!” he muttered. “Okay, okay. What exactly did she say in the letter she wrote to mum?”
“I didn’t cram it…”
“Tammy…!” Donald’s eyes warned dangerously.
“She said she’s pregnant and you’re responsible!” Tammy smirked. “I’m gonna be an uncle…”
“Shut up!” Donald snapped. “Who told you the baby is mine?”
“Bros…” Tammy shook his head, a wicked chuckle playing on his face. “Well, I don’t blame you. If I were in your shoes I’ll do the same.”
“I’m not…” He paused and exhaled. “Look; I believe this is some joke, but it aint funny anymore, so stop it!”
“Joke…? Hmmm! Joke indeed,” he sneered. “By the way, what’s under your pillow?”
“She sent you something along with the letter, and that’s what you hid under your pillow.”
“I’m not hiding anything!” Donald frowned. He raised the pillow and brought out the pictures.
“Let me see…” Tammy stretched his hand.
“And you said you’re not hiding anything.”
“Okay, alright, see.” He handed him the pictures.
“Damn!” Tammy ogled. “Nice positions…even ‘sweeter’ than the ones you came back with. What beach is this?”
“Bar…” He paused. He knew that Tammy was setting a trap for him. “This is bullshit! We weren’t even intimate!”
“Casual friends don’t take romantic pictures like this.”
“That’s nonsense,” Donald retorted. “In Lagos you could take pictures like that with someone you just met.”
“Bros…” Tammy drawled, grinning. “For God’s sake, she’s on bikinis; you’re on Boxers, and your hand is almost cupping her mammary glands …”
“They’re not cupping her boobs for God’s sake,” Donald almost shouted. “They’re just underneath…”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Tammy cut him short. “And this one…” He showed him another picture. “…She’s virtually sitting on your ‘Black Arrow’. Don’t tell me she didn’t feel it, cos I’m sure you had a king-sized hard on…”
“Enough!” Donald yelled. “Infact, get out of this room…!!”
“Okay, alright.” Tammy stood up. “Don’t forget Ma wants to see you.” He walked to the door, turned and said, “By the way, if it’s a boy, what would you name him?”
“Get out!” Donald hissed, getting up from the bed.
“Okay, okay!” Tammy scuttled away. “D-O-N the father of…many nations!” he sang. “Ha ha…”
One look at the scowl on his mother’s face and he knew that he was in for it. She was sitting directly behind the table lamp and the shadows it cast on her only made her facial expression meaner.
Elder Mrs. Alabota Horsfall was by no means ‘soft’. She would have been the house-whip if their father wasn’t a core disciplinarian himself. To them- Donald and his siblings- life was guarded and guided by a rule book of ‘must dos’ and ‘don’ts’. You dare not let your head down, or- as Donald remixed it- ‘you dare not get caught letting your head down’.
“Ma you called me,” he began.
Mrs Horsfall stared at him for what seemed like ages. Her brows furrowed. “Did I just send for you?”
“I would have come before now but I was busy.”
“Busy, right…? Busy,” she retorted. “You’re always giving excuses- flimsy excuses. The bible says that we are inexcusable, therefore we are guilty no matter how reasonable the excuse is.”
“Ma I believe the bible was talking about something else…”
“Shut up!” she snapped. “Okay, since you now know the bible more than I do; what does 1st Corinthians chapter six verse eighteen say?”
“Flee…” He stopped. He knew the verse very well. Didn’t she drum it on them every other day to ‘flee fornication’? “Ma I know what it says and you know that I know what it says.”
“Thank God you know.” She stood up and paced the room. “God knows I wasn’t negligent. God knows I didn’t spare the rod. God knows…”
“Ma if this is about Bishop Obuh’s daughter, please don’t lose any sleep…”
“Why wouldn’t I lose sleep, eh? Donald, “she yelled. “Why shouldn’t I worry? We allowed you to go spend some time in their home and rather than ‘tap’ from the bishop’s anointing, you anointed his daughter with fruit of the womb…
“Ma why don’t you hear me out first?” he sighed exasperatedly.
“Hear what? More excuses? What is it going to be this time? She seduced you? The devil pushed you? You slipped and fell into her…? Or- better still- she raped you?”
“Christ…!” She stood in front of him and gave him a resounding slap. “I’m disappointed in you! Just a month in their house and you couldn’t keep your pants up.”
It wasn’t about the ‘heat’ emanating from his cheek. It wasn’t about his mother slapping him- at least it wasn’t the first time. It was because he wasn’t given a chance to speak. He started storming out of the room…
“Come back here!” she yelled. “…I said come back here!”
He stopped, his eyes reddening. His breathe was coming in quick rapid bursts. “Ma…” he covered the cheek with his palm. “You didn’t even hear me out and you slapped me…”
“And I’ll slap you again!” she shouted, raising her hand up. Donald backed off- impulsively. “Hear what from you? Idiot! And there I was boasting to the Women’s Guild that you’re a virgin.” She paused to catch her breath. “You’re not even twenty two yet and you’re going to be a father…”
“Ma, she’s lying…”
“Shut up!” she screamed. “You want to deny it? Okay, just wait until Daddy comes back.”
“Ma, I’m not…”
“I’m finished with you!” she dismissed him, heaving herself on the chair.
She had said that phrase countless times, and from experience he knew that she would not listen to him anymore. That was the problem. Nobody was listening to him. He angrily stormed out of the room.
Just outside the door he saw Tammy and Christina tiptoeing down the corridor. They had been eavesdropping. He stared at them for a few seconds, contemplated chasing and spanking the shit out of them, changed his mind and stormed on.
On normal days, the Horsfalls gathered in the living room for morning prayers. On normal days, apart from their father and mother, every other person dozed during these prayers. But today was not a normal day. Everybody was shiny-eyed. They all knew that something was going to happen, something that could change the family forever.
Reverend Abiye Horsfall, Pastor of ‘Alive with Christ Church’ Port-Harcourt Cathedral was many things including; a teacher, a preacher, and a no-nonsense person. A man of few words, a mono-syllable uttered by him carried more weight than most people’s ‘complex’ paragraphs. In church and at home, his word was law. Disobeying him was not an option; or, at least disobeying him and letting him know. Nobody wanted to be on his bad side.
Yesterday, during the counseling sessions he held in his office on Thursdays, he had gotten a call from his boss- Bishop Chukwudi Obuh. The top man had told him to come to Lagos today aboard the first morning flight: nothing more, nothing less. He had pondered the reason for the urgent call till the sessions finished. His curiosity however ended when he got home. He had been shocked beyond words when he read Catherine’s letter. He didn’t talk to Donald though. Issues like this were best discussed just before the rising sun.
This morning, his eyes were bloodshot. Sleep had done a good job at eluding him last night. When at last it did come, it didn’t seem like ten minutes he was at it when his body-clock told him it was 6AM.
He glanced at Donald. A wave of fury surged through him. He felt like strangling … But luckily, self-control was one of his many attributes. He studied the young man’s face. His eyes were puffy too: Lack of sleep. His hands supported his jaw. He didn’t look embarrassed or guilty. He looked angry, furious. With an allegation of this magnitude slammed on him, he was supposed to look guilty- if it was true. For a moment he had a tinge of doubt. Donald might just be innocent…He waved it off. The young man had always been a philanderer. He was probably angry because he had been caught at last.
Mrs Horsfall read from the devotional guide, made comments on it, ‘digressed’ and hammered on fornication and its repercussions then rounded up.
On a normal day, after the ‘Grace’ all the kids would go back to sleep. Today, everybody sat tight except Donald. As he made to leave, Rev Horsfall stopped him with a single word; “sit!”
The old man turned to Christina and told her to go and prepare for school.
“We’re not doing anything…” She was saying, but one look at his face got her scuttling away.
“Donald,” he began grimly. “Bishop Obuh’s daughter said she is pregnant for you.” It wasn’t a question but it required an answer.
“She’s not pregnant for me,” he mouthed.
“Shut up!” Mrs Horsfall charged. “She’s not pregnant for me,” she mimicked him. “Who’s she pregnant for then…? The Holy Spirit…?”
“I don’t know who she’s pregnant for and I don’t give a…” He had wanted to say ‘fuck’, but that would have been calamitous. “…And, I don’t care,” he said instead.
“So you’re saying she’s lying,” Horsfall stated.
“Shut up!” Mrs Horsfall cut him short. “Who’s lying? Bishop Obuh’s daughter…?”
“Let him talk!” Horsfall stopped her.
“What’s even so special about a Bishop’s daughter?” Donald almost shouted.
“You’re very stupid!” she retorted. “So you saw nothing special in a Bishop’s daughter, that’s why you took advantage of her- a naïve girl.”
“Ma why are you being like this? Who even told you she’s naïve?”
“That’s what she wrote in the letter. She said you deflowered her. The only ‘good’ part of everything is that you did not rape her.”
“And you believe her?”
“Why wouldn’t I…?”
“Ma if she could get pregnant, don’t you think she could lie too?”
Mrs Horsfall was speechless for a moment then got her voice back. “No doubt she could lie, but she’s six weeks pregnant and you were in their house six weeks ago. Coincidence?”
“And I’m not the only boy she knows, ma!”
“Oh…So what you’re saying now is that you’re not the only man who slept with her…”
“Ma this is bullshit!” he yelled thoughtlessly.
Everybody gasped. Did somebody just curse in this house?
“Donald what did you just say?” Horsfall bellowed.
“It slipped out of my mouth.”
“Yes,” Mrs Horsfall raved. “Always giving excuses. He’s never sorry for anything he does. Go ahead and talk to me anyhow you like.”
“Apologize to your mother,” Horsfall ordered.
Donald glared at her. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.
“Sorry for yourself,” she retorted. “You’ve got bigger problems, so don’t start feeling sorry; at least not yet.”
“I don’t have any problem!” he shouted. “If I do have a problem, it is getting my Higher National Diploma. Believing or doubting me is wholly your choice!” With that, he stormed out of the room, into Christina who had been listening in.
“Donald…Come back…” Too late. Horsfall sighed. “What has gotten into this boy….?” he muttered.
“Let him go,” Mrs Horsfall ranted. “He almost did the same thing yesterday… Let him go!”
“I’ve never seen him this angry before,” Horsfall said thoughtfully.
Mrs Horsfall started sobbing as Tammy and Miriam sneaked out. “Did I tell him I wanted a grandchild? Look at the innocent girl he defiled. This would definitely cost us many things.”
“Stop crying,” Horsfall consoled her. “God promised to see us through trials and temptations and this is just one of them.” He glanced at the clock. “My flight leaves at nine O’ clock. I’ve got to hurry or I’ll miss it.”
“I’ll prepare breakfast,” she sniffed, wiping her eyes.
It was his first time in Lagos and he was very very excited. At last he was at the centre of excellence; the commercial and entertainment capital of Nigeria; the most complex city in the country. “Jeez!” he wowed. At last he would visit the beaches he had heard and read so much about, the all night clubs, and- above all- ‘taste’ the classy chics. The prospect was overwhelming.
But…there was a snag. He was going to his Bishop’s home, a ‘Bishop’s’ home. The man would definitely not endorse frolicking, and leaving the house for ‘adventures’ might be just as hard as leaving his home at PH, but…God will make a way.
He came down from the Luxurious bus looking and feeling like Alice in wonderland. Somebody was supposed to come and pick him up. He was contemplating his next move when suddenly two men lunged at his suitcase. Momentarily shocked, he was rooted to the spot.
“Na my own!” one of them yelled in Pidgin English.
“I reach first!” the other yelled struggling with him.
Donald quickly got his wits back. He lunged at them: pushed, shoved, elbowed and struggled while shouting, “Give me my bag!” at the same time.
The surprised cab drivers released the bag, wondering why Donald was so violent.
“Oga if you no wan go, you for tell us; instead you dey fight,” the first one said.
“Na wa oh!” the other quipped. “E be like say this one na ‘Johnny jus come’.”
Donald realized that he had been struggling with Taxi drivers who only wanted to convey him to ‘wherever’ he was going. He had thought they were thieves. He felt ashamed and embarrassed. ‘Johnny just come’ was a local slang for ‘fish out of water’. The vacation had not even started but he was already getting messed up.
“Where you dey go sef?” the first one asked.
“I am…I dey go…” he stammered.
Somebody who had been watching the fracas amusedly came to his rescue. “Donald Horsfall?” the young man asked.
“Yes,” he nodded vigorously- gratefully. “Chinedu…?”
“Yes,” the guy replied and proffered his hand.
“Oh! Nice to finally meet you,” Donald replied, shaking his hand. “I thought these men were bag snatchers…”
“Welcome to Lagos,” Chinedu smiled. “You just passed your first test.” He helped him carry the suitcase and pointed to a green Cherokee Jeep parked across the road.
“JJC!” the second driver taunted Donald as they walked away. “This na Lagos; make you shine ya eye oh!”
“Fuck you!” Donald muttered.
“What did you say?” Chinedu asked him.
“Nothing,” he shook his head.
Chinedu put the suitcase in the trunk; opened the door and they went in. With a knowing grin, he said, “You said ‘fuck you’.”
Donald glanced at him; saw the grin on his face and smiled sheepishly. “Yeah…guilty as charged,” he agreed. “You’re not offended?”
“By what…? ‘Fuck you’? Why should I be?”
“I mean…You’re a Bishop’s son…”
Chinedu chuckled. “And you’re a Reverend’s son too,” he said as he backed out of the Park. “The fact that we’re clergy men’s sons doesn’t mean we shouldn’t live regular lives.”
“Yeah, I agree with you,” Donald nodded. “Unfortunately many people don’t share that viewpoint.”
“Yeah…but who cares?”
Donald smiled. With a pal like this, this holiday is surely gonna be hot, he thought. He is a ‘real Gee’ for sure. Well…Lagos city; here I come!
Mrs. Ifeoma Obuh was driving out of the massive compound as Chinedu and Donald were coming in. She flashed her headlamps and pulled over beside them.
“Mommy you’re late,” Chinedu said as she wound down her car window.
“I know,” she replied, fixing her eyes on Donald. “Donald…?” she asked.
“Yes,” he nodded. “Good morning ma.” She had come to their parish in PH before but they hadn’t been opportune to meet.
“How was your trip?” she asked.
“Fine,” he nodded again.
‘I’m going for a meeting,” she said, taking a furtive glance at her wristwatch. “I’ll be back in the evening.”
“Okay. Bye ma.”
“Stop by Tetrazini when you’re coming back,” Chinedu quipped.
“Have a nice day ‘too’,” she said as she zoomed off.
“What’s Tetrazini?” Donald asked Chinedu as they drove in.
Chinedu chuckled, cut the engine and said, “A fast-food eatery, something like McDonalds, Mr Biggs…”
“Oh…okay,” Donald shrugged. “Sounds like a malaria tablet though”, he added. As he made to open the door, two big dogs rushed at him. He quickly closed it and cowered away as they scratched on the window. “Christ! Dogs!” he shouted.
He turned to Chinedu who was laughing his head off. “They won’t bite you,” he said in between spasms. He saw the look of fright on Donald’s face and started another round of laughter.
“They…they won’t bite…?” Donald stuttered. Chinedu nodded, still laughing. Donald considered what he said and made to open the door. Incidentally, the big black Alsatian with an extra-large mouth barked and bared its dental formation. “No!” he said, shaking his head. “I’m not coming out of this car…”
Chinedu’s eyes were watering by now. After a few moments, he collected himself, opened the door and came down. “Daja…! Nicky!” he called his canine friends. The two dogs left Donald’s side of the car and ran to him. “Bad dogs. You’re scaring the shit out of our visitor.” He turned to Donald. “See? They won’t bite.” He turned back to the dogs. “Sit down…Daja sit down…Nicky!” They obeyed him and sat down, wagging their tails excitedly. “You can come out now,” he urged Donald.
Still unsure, Donald slightly opened the door and stepped out. They didn’t come at him. In his fright, he didn’t notice the pair of eyes staring at him from the balcony upstairs. He was measuring the distance to the main door just incase the dogs decided to disobey Chinedu. Without taking his eyes off them, he walked briskly into ‘sanctuary’ and let out a sigh of relief. “Dogs!” he hissed. “Motherfucking dogs…”
Chinedu walked in with his bag- still laughing. In his trepidation, Donald had forgotten that he came with luggage. “Why were you so scared?” he asked.
“Wasn’t it obvious?” he frowned, suddenly embarrassed. He had made a fool of himself twice in one day- one morning. Outrageous! “Besides I’ve been bitten before and ever since then I developed a phobia.”
“Okay,” Chinedu smiled understandingly. “But if you’re going to stay here, you’ll have to start working on it cos there’s yet another- Daisy- and she’s expecting puppies.”
“Christ!” Donald muttered. “So right now you have three dogs.”
“Yes. Daja is the Alsatian, Nicky is the Doberman while Daisy is a German shepherd.”
“Whoa…” He looked around for the first time and took in his surroundings. “Oh my…” he gasped when he saw the Mercury chandelier hanging majestically from the ceiling. He’d always had a thing for lights. And…the 52 inch flat screen television was playing a Rapaddict song on Soundcity. In PH, they only received three local TV stations – three annoying TV stations – on a ‘21 inch’ screen. But this is Cable TV! “Oh my…” he muttered unconsciously.
Chinedu smiled at the effect the house had on him. He looked around himself. The plush white leather sofas, the marbled floor, the portraits on the wall, and the theatre system. The house was a cross between extravagance and simple; exquisite. His gaze went back to Donald’s face, still absorbed in the musical.
Catherine came in, still in her nightgown. She wanted to say something but he put his forefinger on his lips in the universal sign of ‘shush’.
Without looking back, Donald said, “As far as I am concerned, Rapaddict is the best rapper in Naija. And the overwhelming part of it is that the guy is not even eighteen yet.” The song ended and he turned. “So…” His eyes met with Catherine’s and held for a few seconds. He glanced at Chinedu briefly and turned back to her. “Good morning…”
“Hello,” she smiled, revealing sparkling white teeth. “You must be er…um…”
“Donald,” he offered. “And you’re Catherine, yeah…?”
“Yeap.” She offered her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“The honor is mine,” he said still holding her very soft- and warm¬- palm. He was already imagining the many things the hand could do: massages, smooches…
Chinedu watched them with mild amusement. “She’s my sister,” he reminded Donald before he fell in love.
“Of cause, I know that! It’s just that she’s…” He paused. You’re in a bishop’s home, his subconscious mind chided him.
Chinedu and Catherine asked simultaneously.
“Er…Nothing,” he shook his head and focused on the TV.
They both eyed him quizzically, then Chinedu said, “Let me show you to your room.”
“Alright.” As he went out of the room he took a backward glance at Catherine. Their eyes met. He smiled as she quickly looked away.
One of the angelic beauties was spoon-feeding him with something that tasted like cornflakes. Another, with unbelievable large pair of tits pressed on his back, was massaging his shoulders. Another was filing his fingernails. The fourth, dressed in only bikinis was ironing his shirt.
Someone knocked on the door. “Come in!” he bellowed. In came the beauty of beauties. He told all the other ladies to leave the room and summoned the ‘beauty of beauties’ to his side.
“Kiss me,” he drawled, smiling.
“Kiss…what?” someone asked him.
Donald jerked up, a frown on his face. The smile returned when he saw the beauty of beauties standing in front of him. She was dressed differently though.
“You said I should…?” she asked again.
He frowned and looked at the face again. It was still the same but now with a name- Catherine. He chuckled sheepishly when he realized that he’d been dreaming. Fantastic fantasies! He sat up and looked at her. Her eyebrows were raised quizzically. “What…?” he asked.
“You said something?”
She hesitated. “You said I should…kiss you.”
“Kiss…?” He was momentarily shocked. “I…Maybe I was dreaming.”
“Dream…? But…that’s not possible…Cos when I knocked on the door you told me to come in. When I did, you said I should come closer, then you said I should kiss you.”
“Christ! Fucking sleep-talking.” he muttered to himself. “I was…I was dreaming,” he maintained
She shrugged. “About your girlfriend?”
He smiled. “Actually I was dreaming about…” He was going to say ‘you’ but thought wiser.
“Yes, my girlfriend,” he frowned. He’d made a fool of himself- again.
She shrugged. “Mommy and Daddy are back.”
“Oh…” He got up. “So soon?”
“Yeah. Chinedu told me they always come back in the evening.”
“Christ!” he grimaced. “I can’t believe I slept for that long.” He collected a T-shirt from his bag. “Are they in the living room?”
“Yes,” she nodded and went out.
He went to the adjoining bathroom, washed his face and put on the T-shirt. He had seen the Bishop countless times, both on TV and in real life, but meeting him personally was different. He was a bit nervous; just like the day he met the Registrar of his school for an interview before he was admitted.
Bishop Obuh was engrossed in a TV program- Turning Point- when he got to the living room. He paused at the door, appraising the popular preacher. Always stylish, he looked domestic in a sleeveless T-shirt and baggy shorts.
“What a riveting experience,” the Bishop suddenly said when the serial went off for a short break. Without turning, he continued, “From a terrorist to a church leader- just like Paul of Tarsus. You sure missed…Why not take a seat.”
Donald was stunned. When the man of God first spoke, he’d thought he was soliloquizing. How did he know that he was there? “Good…good evening sir,” he stammered as he went further in.
“Bless you,” Bishop Obuh smiled. “Your trip was tiring.”
It wasn’t a question but, “Yes,” he answered.
“How are your mother and your younger ones?”
“They’re all fine.”
“You’re awaiting admission, right?”
“Yes sir. HND. I’m through with my OND.”
He nodded as the TV commercial came to an end. His attention went back to the concluding part of Turning Point. Mrs. Obuh came in with a can of Tonic water.
“Good evening ma,” Donald stood up.
“Donald, good evening. They said you were sleeping. Jet- sorry- Bus-lag?”
“I guess so,” Donald smiled sitting down. Bus-lag…nice coinage.
“There are drinks in the fridge if you want some,” she said, handing Bishop Obuh the Tonic water.
“Okay, thanks.” He stood up and went to the separated dining room. Earlier in the day when he’d gone there to eat, the only thing that fascinated him was the glass dining table and chairs. The room also had large sliding doors that led to a beautiful garden. He wasn’t the ‘flower’ type so the garden didn’t strike him then. But looking at it now was like looking at the promised heaven. The pine, palm and other trees he couldn’t name had tiny electric bulbs in them. The garden looked like Christmas in Fantasia. He could simply describe the breathtaking scenery as ‘a million colored stars in my backyard.’
He smiled at the description and opened the refrigerator. So many drinks. He brought out a can of Mountain Dew, opened it and went back to the view. He turned when Catherine walked in with a tray. ‘Beauty of Beauties.’ He couldn’t help the sheepish smile.
“You like the view?” she asked, smiling back.
“Yeah. It’s the second most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
“What’s the first?” she asked, setting the contents of the tray on the table.
“Um…I can’t guess.”
He swallowed a couple swigs from the can, turned back to the view and said, “You.”
“What?” she asked.
“Where’s Chinedu?” he asked instead.
“He went to see some of his friends off. How do you mean me?” she pressed.
“You’re the most beautiful thing- sorry- person I’ve ever seen,” he reiterated.
She was rendered inert as the words hit her. “I…Thank you…”
“It’s not a complement. Saying you’re beautiful is like saying you’re fair-skinned, or you’ve got jet-black hair, or…” he pointed to her dress “…You’re clad in a red dress.” He took another swig off the drink. “Where did you say Chinedu went to?”
“He…” Her voice clogged. She quickly cleared it. “He went out with some of his friends. I think they organized a send-off party for him.”
“Send off? Where’s he going?”
“Back to school.”
“But…All schools are on holiday…”
“He doesn’t school here. He schools in England- Oxford University.”
“Jeez. When’s he going?”
“Wow…He didn’t even tell me.”
“You were sleeping.” She took the tray and started leaving.
“You need a hand?”
“I already have two,” she gestured.
He chuckled. “I meant help…You need help?”
“Don’t bother. Just…” she glanced at the wall clock. “Just finish the drink. Dinner will be served in ten minutes.”
Chinedu waltzed in just as they all took seats on the table.
“Good evening daddy. Good evening mommy. Donald, what’s up,” he greeted.
“Welcome,” they chorused.
“How was the party?” Bishop Obuh asked him.
“Fine…” Shit! “What party?” Chinedu frowned.
“The one you just said was ‘fine’,” the Bishop replied.
Chinedu glanced at Catherine who was trying not to chuckle.
“She did not tell me,” Bishop Obuh said, understanding the look on Chinedu’s face. “Your friends send you off every time you’re going back to school.”
Chinedu hesitated, then nodded. “How did you know?”
Bishop Obuh smiled. “I know,” was all he said.
“Have you finished packing your bags?” Mrs. Obuh asked Chinedu.
“I’ll do it all tonight,” he said, still wondering.
She eyed him apprehensively. “You better not forget anything again because I won’t send it…”
“I won’t forget anything,” he cut her short. “By the way where’s the Tetrazini?”
“Oh…I forgot,” she said. “But I got you something else.”
“What…?” Chinedu asked
“Remember that Rolex…?”
He beamed. “You bought it?
She nodded. “Yes”
“Oh, thank you so much mommy, you’re the bestest…”
“The food…?” Bishop Obuh groaned impatiently, feigning deep hunger.
Catherine went to work. She had prepared spaghetti with fried plantain and chicken. She made to serve her father but he gestured to Donald like ‘serve the visitor first.’ She moved over to him.
“Tell me when you’re okay,” she told him.
“Alright” Donald nodded. I won’t eat much, he said to himself. I’ll just eat two-thirds of what I normally eat so they won’t think I’m a glutton. His mouth watered as she heaped the pasta on his plate. Maybe I’ll eat three-quarters, he changed his mind. He didn’t notice the smiles and glances being exchanged amongst the others. “That’s alright,” he told her when she had put four-fifth of what he normally ate.
Next she served her father. She put half of what was in Donald’s plate in hes and proceeded to Chinedu. Hes was smaller than his fathers. She moved to her mother. Hers was even smaller than Chinedu’s.
“Jesus Christ!” Donald muttered to himself, flabbergasted. The hammer hit the head of the nail when Catherine served herself. Hers was the smallest. “Fuck!” he muttered again. He glanced at his enormous food, then every other persons, and suddenly lost appetite.
As the Bishop blessed the meal, he tried to justify the mountain on his plate. Normally, old people don’t eat much, he thought, glancing at Bishop Obuh and his wife. Chinedu just came back from a party where he must have eaten enough so he’s not hungry. Catherine- as is the trend these days- is keeping trim and slim so she doesn’t eat much. And I didn’t eat in the afternoon, so I’m supposed to be famished…
…You’re a glutton afterall!