“Please, honey, talk to me, tell what I’ve done to deserve this kind of treatment?’ Ezinne Ezeugo knelt beside her husband with both of her palms opened before her.
“Your appointment with the consultant was today, what did he say?” His eyes didn’t leave the newsprint his eyes was on.
Despite the fact that for about three minutes, she had been pleading with her husband, willing him to say something, anything but not the silent treatment he had been leashing out on her, the sudden sound of his voice and iciness accompanied with it made her shudder.
“I… some foreign doctors visited and after examination and other routine, I confirmed me medically okay to conceive.” Tears formed in her eyes. “I’ve prayed, you know I’ve done everything required of me.” She entwined her palms and exhaled as the first set of tears rolled down her cheeks. “You know I didn’t mess up my life, I was a virgin till our wedding night.” On her knees, she moved close to him and rested her palm on his knees. “Please honey, I beg you…” Her voice trembled. “Please don’t ever leave me…please. You’re my life, if you leave, I will die. I beg of you, please don’t leave and marry someone else…” Her voice trailed off as she began to sob.
“What makes you think I want to marry another?” Marcus cast the newsprint aside to give her a scrutinizing look.
She lowered her gaze and then swallowed hard. “You haven’t said a word to me for over twenty four hours…you haven’t touched my meals and… and that’s how it usually begins.”
A smile formed on his lips as he placed a palm beneath his chin. “Nne, you’re a fantastic cook denying myself of your meals with no ideal replacement is not wise. I’m disturbed, close to twenty years without a child to show for is… is I don’t know what to even say.” He exhaled and ran his finger through his low cut hair with a touch of grey.
“Ladies, try to take advantage of this challenge to make advances but I refuse because when I married you, it was for better and worst. Besides…I… I don’t even know the probability of another lady conceiving for me. I love you too much for all that “trial and error” mess.” She pulled her close and plant a kiss on her forehead.
She exhaled as relief flooded her.
“Imagine my four year niece dead after being raped to death by the house boy, my brother had employed and since then, Ngozi had been unable to conceive again. Enough of science and technology, Azubuike and I will be going to see a spiritualist tomorrow.’
The information hit her like a bolt from the blue but she dare not protest.
“This is not happening to me, no…no…not my own Kafayat …not my own daughter… not my own daughter.” Both of her legs were shaking as she wailed.
After the grey haired doctor had announced the diagnosis of her daughter thereby sealing her fate, she threw herself on the floor a couple of times and rolled on the cold ground as though the God will take cognizant of her and reverse the fate of her child.
Shakirat, Basirat and Yerima having been plunged into shock were lost in their individual thoughts, that they had not noticed their mother display talk more of consoling her.
Dishevelled and sored, she was now seated on the marble tiled floor of the corridor that led to a couple of private wards in which her daughter now lay sedated.
“No…no, what will people say that my child… my flesh and blood is in a psychiatric hospital.” She placed both hands on her head void of the earlier scarf which was now resting some distance away on the antiseptic floor. “This will be a generational smear.”
The words of her mother had snapped out Basirat from her reverie to focus at Aisha and she continued to stare at her as she would a stranger while processing the words she had just heard. “How can you allow your mind run so far mother, at least Kafayat is alive, what do you want the family of Saheed to do and say, he was the only son?” She glared at her mother obviously disappointed.
“Now you claim to be learned…” She shook her head and stared into space. “Do you consider a psychiatric patient living?”
“What!” The trio glared at her as though she just confessed to being a witch and had been responsible for all the loss so far.
Aisha sighed and then heaved.
Basirat burst into tears and her whole body shook as she remembered the event that was barely a week old.
After waiting for a couple of hours in the church for the arrival of the groom and his men, tension built in both families and well-wishers. It was worst on the beautiful bride.
“This can’t be happening to me…Saheed can never do this to me.” She had repeated over and over again pacing and refusing to be reassured.
Basirat had being with her and said all the encouraging words she could remember fearing the worst until the news came that on their way to the church venue, a truck had lost control of its brakes and had used the Jeep Saheed was in as a wedge.
Saheed had died instantly and others in the car had suffered a non-life threatening injury.
The news had sent Kafayat reeling to floor and after few seconds, she lay motionless.
Though she was rushed to the hospital and after three days, regained consciousness only to start displaying psychotic symptoms.
Her doctor had no other choice than to refer her for expert management.
“I’m getting scared, I don’t know long it will be before I lose my sanity.” Basirat blew her nose and sat on a seat.
Shakirat let her guards down as she remembered her departed son, soon was kneeling on the ground sobbing.
Aisha sniffed and sneezed before burying her head in her palms.
Oh God please help her.
The car screeched to a halt, he bolted out, slammed the door shut before running all the way into the hospital. No one stopped him because they all knew him.
He raced up the stairs in threes, not exercising the patience of the electronic stairs moving him up. As his eyes scanned the tag on each door he passed, he maintained his pace. He got to the door he was looking for, halt and took quick deep breaths in and out.
“Mum…” Kelvin whispered when he entered.
“Oh honey…” She beamed as she glanced at him and then at the bundle in her arms. ‘Behold, the most beautiful baby I’ve ever set my eyes on.’
He moved close and peered. “My…my baby.” He choked as tears sting his eyes.
“Yes your baby, my first grandchild.” Darlene couldn’t help but chuckle as his reaction as she handed her over.
The baby stirred, stretched and went back to sleep. He held her close to his heart. “I almost can’t believe I’m holding you eventually.” He shut his eyes and exhaled mesmerized. “My God in heaven, I bless you for your faithfulness, thank you for this precious gift you’ve given us. I pray that she would fulfil her purpose on earth, you’ll teach us to bring her up in your way.”
‘Amen.’ Darlene chanted with her eyes closed.
“She will be great, far better than her parents, she will be a force of revolution to the world in Jesus name.”
‘Amen.’ Darlene said.
He kissed her on the forehead and then, stared down at her. “Mum, she is so pretty.”
“Of course dear, she should be, she is very well from a linage of beautiful people. She is more beautiful when her eyes are opened.” Darlene chuckled.
Kelvin handed the baby over and walked over to where his wife laid with a hand on her abdomen. Her eyes were closed.
“Angel are you okay?’ He took her hand and knelt beside her.
“I’m… I’m okay.’ Katherine opened her eyes and beamed. “Our beauty has been born dearest.”
‘Yes.’ He beamed. “Thank you for her.” He kissed her on the lips and his grip on her hand tightened. “My sweetness, I’m sorry for not being there for you.”
“That may be a good thing in a way, you might have changed your mind about having two boys and a girl.” Her glassy eyes shone.
Kelvin exchanged glances with his mother who smiled like she knew a great secret.
Katherine closed her eyes.
“Do allow her rest honey.”
Just then, Kayla came in white. “Congratulations Kelly.’ She embraced him. “You’ve got for yourself a bouncing, healthy and pretty baby girl.”
“God has made us glad.”
Kayla turned to her mother who now seated.’ Dad is annoyed that you did not call to inform him before coming to the hospital.” Kayla sat beside her mother. “My Sweetheart will soon be here.”
“Where’re they?” Camilla busted in the private ward decorated with pink and white balloons and cards. She cast her bag and car keys aside as set eyes on the baby. “Oh my cutie… cutie!’ She brimmed with happiness. “Mummy please let me hold her. Oh my…she is so adorable. My name is Aunt Camilla, I’m the one that use to sing for you when you’re in your mummy’s womb. Oh my…she just smiled at me, she remembers me!’
They all chuckled except Katherine who was fast asleep.
“Congratulations big brother.” With an arm, she embraced him and kissed him on both cheeks.
“Thanks darling.” Kelvin returned before going to perch on the bed with Katherine.
“I saw a gathering of the press as I sneaked into the hospital via the back. They would have to swallow the patience pill because the Sigismund take pride in relishing their special moments.” Camilla said before reaching into her bag for her camera.
“Honey, did you intend to take your camera and forget it in the sitting room?” Katherine looked elegant in a well-tailored designers skirt suit.
Marigold Franklin Sigismund, taller than her age, an exact replica of her dad’s American complexion, beautiful with a face that was almost always smiling like her granddad collected the cased camera. Her younger brother had once told her that if she was to be an animal, she would have been a Cheshire cat.
She walked side by side her mum to the Jeep. She also carried her mum’s hand bag.
“Thanks mum, I’d have felt bad if I got to the school show just to realise I left it at home, mum you’re a darling.” She beamed and it was so identical to her father’s except for the display of gap tooth which she took from her mum. Some familiar with the family says she looked more like the dad than the mum but others argued otherwise.
“I’m glad.” She said just before she pressed the receive key of her mobile phone that was vibrating. “Excuse me hon.” She glanced at her ten year old daughter before raising the phone to her ears. “How’re you dear… you very know that I can’t be the office until three hours…if they can wait till then…thanks…later.”
‘That was important right?’ She glanced at her mother.
“Maybe.” She shrugged and opened the driver side of the car. “My angel was booked far before the call of today. Everything has to be done according to priority. Get into the car Goldie.”
“I’m glad you’re coming for I’ve got a surprise for you and daddy.” She said after strapping her seat belt.
Soon the car was revving down the road.
“Remember the letter my school posted on its show, I am the script writer of the drama feature.”
‘Wow.” Katherine glanced at her.
“You and dad said my short stories were wonderful so before school exams started, I took them to school to do some sorting, Mr Li stumbled on it, he read and said it was good. The stories were transferred to some other teachers in the lower grade and then some others in the higher grades. Two weeks later, the head of the literal department sent for me. She said to me-
“Your stories are fabulous.”
“Thank you ma” I replied.
“Marigold darling, how about writing a story with this title?” She handed me a slip with a title and few tips.
“I…I’ll like to ma.” I replied.
“Can you be done in three weeks?”
“I should be but if I’m unable to ma, I’ll inform you.”
I wrote it and submitted three days after the assigned time. A couple of days after, she said to me- “Marigold, you’re the script writer of the drama the high graders will be performing for the school show and I also learnt that you’re the daughter to the business shakers, Kelvin and Katherine Sigismund.”
“Yes ma!” I readily replied.” Marigold burst into laughter.
“That is great Marigold! I’m actually surprised but honey, why did you decide to keep it to yourself until now?”
“Marijory, is making a special presentation today and she’s keeping it a surprise to her parents so I decided it was cool for me to do so.”
‘Hmmm…She resolved thoughtful as she brought the car to a halt at the red sign of traffic light.
“Professionals and Judges are going to be present, the press too. If the drama picks an award and commendation, it will be shown on TV. I’ll have an opportunity of being tutored by some of the best writers.”
“Now I am assured that you’re hearty about your talent, your dad and I promise to support you all the way.”
“I love you so more mummy!” Marigold said gleefully.
Katherine narrowed her brows as she swerved. “Why so more, and not so much?”
Marigold exhaled. “Daddy is filling the much space in such a way that I can’t squeeze in besides, I don’t have what it takes to compete with him.”
She laughed hard and long anticipating when she’d share with her husband. “I’ll tell my treasure.”
“I can do you the honours mum.”
Bennedict Franklin Sigismund was on a trip with his father while Marijory Sigisfried who was nine years old was Kenneth and Kayla adorable daughter and Marigold’s best friend, with exactly a year between them.
Three years after their daughter, the Sigisfried welcomed identical twin boys.
“These are brother-in-laws, my sisters,” Yekini felt the overwhelming urge to be on his feet as he did the introduction. “There, is my mother and I’m the son of the man that…that shot your brother.”
Katherine shut both eyes with a palm raised and pin drop silence prevailed. For a minute, she had no iota of doubt that she was having a horrible day mare.
“Can you repeat your last statement?” Katherine rose with eyes squinted.
“That is… that is true.” Yerima said, expecting any device to be hurled at him.
Her eyes blinked in utter shock. “You…you’re family of the uniformed man that murdered… that terminated the life of my brother.” She had raised an index finger. “Leave this company now.”
“My…my daughter…” Aisha began.
“I know where my mother is! Get out—all of you!” Katherine yelled as a barrage of loath burst open in the bottom of her stomach. Her finger descended on a button on the table and in no time, four security men rushed into the office.
“Usher them out.”
The security didn’t hesitate, having never seen their boss so upset.
Katherine stared at closed door and then, her eyes closed because everything around her seemed to spinning. She staggered and gave a silence splitting scream.
Before Evelyn, her secretary rushed in, she had already slumped in a cushion chair and her head was buried in her palms.
“Ma, are you all right?”
“I’m—I’m…” She sighed. “Cancel all my appointment, I want to see nobody and received no phone calls.”
“Yes ma but are…?”
“Don’t worry about me.”
Evelyn took a couple of glances before finally shutting the door.
Katherine sat back and her tears flowed freely.
“Hi sweetest heart.” Kelvin cooed and opened his arms.
She stepped into his arms and held him tight as relief flooded her. She felt the urge to burst into tears but suppressed it, now wasn’t not the time.
He still had his long sleeved shirt still tucked in the trousers from work. “I’m up here on a mission, Bennedict says you’ve been unhappy and despite him asking, you claimed nothing was amiss. He has therefore employed the services of able detective Kelvin Sigismund.”
Katherine smiled fondly, her son had turned out to be very observant.
“I called at your office to take you for a surprise treat and Evelyn told me you left three hours before closing time. Besides, your phone has been switched off. What could be wrong sweetie?”
How she wanted to tell him all without mincing words, instead she said, “My dear darling,” She reached out to touch his face. “I promise to tell it all when you’ve freshened up and on a full stomach.”
Katherine took his hand and made to lead him out but he restrained her.
“I can’t see myself enjoying your delicious meal with the knowledge you’re unhappy.” She appeared to him like she had shed some kilogramme since he last saw her in the morning.
“Well said dearest.” She exhaled.
He sat and asked her to sit on his lap. “I’m listening darling.”
“I…I don’t even how to begin,” She heaved. “Some people from Nigeria came to see in the office and claimed to be family of the man that shot my brother.”
“What!” His jaw dropped and his eyes widened.
“Yes sweetie, it’s—it’s crazy—bizarre, I don’t know…” She sighed and entwined her palms.
Seconds passed as he digested the information.
“What did you do?” He looked up at her and took her palm in his.
She drew up her shoulders. “Send them right out of my office.”
Silence prevailed as Kelvin brows knotted into a frown and he lapsed into thoughts once more.
“Sweetheart, what can you make of their visit?”
Katherine heaved and pondered before answering. “I don’t know what to think or make of it and I don’t care. If the devil had decided to lie all along and decided to raise his ugly head at this point…” She smiled bitterly. “He had better strap his belt well…” she stood and tapped her foot for few seconds.
Kelvin exhaled and stood. “Come sweetie,” He took her hand and led her down the stairs. “We’re going to tell our children about this and report it to our father above.”
Katherine strode into lobby leading to her office and stopped short bewildered. She removed her sunglasses and peered. Her cologne and aura went before her and they looked just to sight her.
Ezinne gasped and a palm clasped over her mouth afterwards. She recognized her despite the transformation, her face reminded her so much of her mother, a woman who had welcomed her into the family with open arms, polished her cooking skills. Who had sponsored all meal and drinks those present at her wedding to her brother-in-law took. In a flash, she remembered Katherine as a teen, how she had danced so well at their wedding and mesmerized all present. She and husband had even joked that she more money sprayed on her than them. Guilt coursed through every fibre of her being.
The very person they had to hired the best of detectives to look for two years having tried various solutions from one spiritualist to another, native doctor to another, false prophet to another and tried variety of supposedly concoctions and prescriptions.
Katherine recognized them and could have laughed.
Her oldest uncle, Marcus Ezeugo stood dazed at the presence of his niece, the one he carried on the day of her birth and then he hung his head in shame.
His younger brother, Azubuike and their wives stood and lowered their gaze.
Katherine wore her sun glasses and advanced towards Evelyn who had being on her feet as soon as she saw Katherine.
“Katherine…” Marcus called more of a whisper fully laced with pleas.
She grimaced but turned to look at them when in front of her secretary’s desk. “I feel like the very devil just called my name, I don’t want to hear your voice again.” She thundered but her voice was void of spite and anger.
Marcus winced and recoiled.
“Evelyn?” She called eyes not leaving them. “Call security, I need feedback that they’ve left this premises within this same minute.” She took a quick glance at her wrist watch before walking head high into her office.
Ezinne slumped on the floor and placed both hands on her head.
Evelyn was already speaking into a phone.
The memory she had taken with her were that of them well dressed but not good looking, perspiring in a well-ventilated and air-conditioned lobby, their facial expression was as though they were on the verge of cardiac arrest.
A question was paramount in her mind. Was there a courtesy visit or something much more?
She withdrew her mobile phone and speed dialled her husband number.
“If God wants you to listen to them there would be a confirmation. Mum you’ll see them again.” Her daughter had whispered to her just as she dropped off her and her brother at school earlier in day. It was about noon when the chief security officer had brought the announcement of both the presence of the Yerima’s and Ezeugo’s family.
She folded the note and handed it over to him. “Give this note to anyone of them and let them go.”
“Would that be all ma’am?” He inquired.
“Thank you so much Elvis and that would be all.” Katherine smiled up at him before capping her pen.
He gave a low bow before proceeding with the instruction.
Katherine drummed her pen on the desk.