Moxie(13)

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Okeke let the last scoop of dust trickle through his fingers to the ground as he stood by his wife’s freshly dug grave. He stared at the small crowd gathered around Oriaku’s graveside with unseeing eyes. The red dust clung to his sweaty palms and he wiped them on his trousers. He ground his teeth as he thought to himself how fate had dealt him a cruel hand; first with his son’s illness, then his daughter’s disappearance and now the death of his wife.

Oriaku never really got over the loss of Nnedi. As soon as she returned from her futile attempt to see Nnedi at Onitsha, she took ill. The doctors at the government hospital said she was diabetic and hypertensive but in spite of the treatment given to her by the doctors, Oriaku’s condition continued to deteriorate. She continued to lose weight and look frailer by the day. It was as if she had determined that she had nothing else to live for. Okeke watched as his once beautiful wife metamorphosed into a sickly shadow of her former self. When he could take Oriaku’s self-destruction no longer, he voiced his concern to his father who suggested that they take her to see a renowned dibia. The dibia’s declarations were even more sinister. He told them that Oriaku’s spirit had already transited to the other world and that her body was to follow shortly. He asked them to bring the right foot of a female tortoise, some palm oil and thirteen yards of white cloth for him to perform some sacrifices on behalf of Oriaku to halt her journey. After the sacrifice, it was as if Oriaku was given a new lease on life. She bounced back to good health almost immediately and regained all the weight she had lost. She returned to her stall in the market and life in Umuaku continued as usual until that fateful morning when she slumped.

It was a market day and Okeke had gotten up early to watch the sunrise from his verandah. Oriaku was in the kitchen at the back of the compound preparing breakfast. On market days she left the house earlier than usual since buyers from the neighbouring towns flooded the market in search of fresh produce from the farms. He watched as the sun peeked from behind a curtain of easterly clouds and sighed as a gust of wind blew his wrapper about his legs. His reverie was cut short when Chidi bolted to the front of the compound looking like he had seen a ghost.

“Papa! Papa!! There’s something wrong with mama”, he screamed

“Where is she?”

“She’s lying down on the kitchen floor. She’s not answering me”

Okeke rushed behind Chidi as they headed for the kitchen. They carried her into the house and laid her on her bed. Okeke shook her vigorously but she didn’t wake up. He swung into action, put her on his back and started running to the nearby health center as fast as his legs and her extra weight would let him. The townspeople trailed behind him as he trudged on, oblivious of their sympathetic stares. When they got to the health center, the nurse told them that Oriaku was already dead. Before he could do anything, four able-bodied men had swooped in on him and herded him out of the small waiting area of the health center. He struggled against them with all his might but he was no match for their youth and vigour.

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Chinwe smiled coyly as Okoye rubbed against her thighs. She had good news for him tonight; she was pregnant! She moaned as Okoye sheathed himself in her velvety warmth and wrapped her arms around him urging him to quicken his pace.

A knock sounded on the door and they both stilled hoping the intruder would go away. Chinwe wiggled her hips provocatively beneath him and Okoye soon forgot about the knocking at the door as they swayed once more to a timeless rhythm.  The knocking came again, this time louder and more insistent. Okoye stood up, a frown on his face as he hurriedly put on his trousers.

He opened the door slightly and was shocked to see his younger brother Nwoye and his first wife Ugonwa at the door.

He turned back to look at the bed and saw that Chinwe had somehow found her wrapper and was struggling to cover her modesty as she dragged herself from the bed. It was his wife Ugonwa who found her voice first.

“Do you believe me now”, she said turning to Nwoye

Nwoye nodded silently

“Husband snatcher”, Ugonwa screamed as she brushed past Okoye, finding her way into the room.

“You will not mourn your husband in peace”, she continued, clapping in Chinwe’s face

“You are a disgrace to womanhood”

Tufiakwa”, she spat

“Please take her home”, Okoye pleaded with Nwoye

Okoye bolted the door firmly behind him but not before Nwoye had pulled a screaming and kicking Ugonwa out of the room. Thankfully Ugonwa’s shouts were not loud enough to disturb the rest of the compound. Okoye thanked his stars that Chinwe’s mourning chamber was at the far end of the compound, away from the rest of Ihenacho’s other wives and children. He listened intently for any more sounds from any of the other apartments and when there was none he moved to sit on the bed.

“I am pregnant”, Chinwe blurted out

“You are what?”

“I said I am pregnant”

“I heard you the first time. Aren’t you a bit too old to be having children?” he scoffed

“Well, I’m pregnant”, Chinwe sobbed

“Listen to me, you old hag”, said Okoye through clenched teeth; “You have already disgraced me in front of my brother and my wife. Only God knows how many people she has gone to tell about what she saw here tonight. I am a respected elder in this village and I will not have you soil my name. You couldn’t keep your legs together and now you want to blame me for your predicament?”

“What do you mean by my predicament? Are we not in this together?” she yelled

“Keep your voice down, you harlot. You are on your own! How do I even know if I am the only one you’ve been sleeping with since my brother’s death?”

Okoye moved to the door. Chinwe stood up and planted herself between him and the door.

“Chinwe, get out of my way”, he warned

“Or what?” she demanded

She seized the collar of his shirt and held him tightly, willing him to take another step away from the room.

“Woman, this is your last chance”, he seethed

“Do your worst”, she taunted him

Okeke tried to extricate his shirt from her vice-like grip and when she wouldn’t let go, he pushed her violently.

Chinwe’s bottom landed squarely on the floor with a loud thud. Before she could stand up Okoye had slunk away into the night.

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By morning, news of Chinwe and Okoye’s illicit affair was all over the town; the women gossiped about it in hushed tones. That same day, the elders summoned Chinwe to the town hall. As she walked to the town hall, people walked behind her careful not to go too close to her. She could hear the women hurling insults at her as she trekked on in silence.

She was asked to kneel down in the center of the hall while they deliberated on her case. She scanned the faces of the men seated in a circle surrounding her but she couldn’t find Okoye among them. Outside the hall, a throng had gathered to watch the proceedings. She kept her head down and shut her eyes trying to blot out the public spectacle that was taking place around her.

When the elders were done deliberating, they decided that she should be punished for dishonouring her husband’s spirit. According to them, she had soiled Ihenacho’s name and inadvertently made it difficult for his spirit to successfully journey to the afterlife. To appease Ihenacho’s spirit and cleanse her of adultery, she was to walk around the market, naked, on the next market day. The crowd erupted into pandemonium. From where she knelt down, Chinwe saw her elder brother out of the corner of her eye as he stepped forward to plead that she be given a lesser sentence. The elders were adamant, insisting that the sentence they had passed was befitting for Chinwe’s crime. The elders dispersed leaving her kneeling. Her brother helped her up and steered her out of the hall. The crowd had swelled by the time Chinwe got out of the hall and they trailed her all the way to her family’s compound as she was ordered not to return to her husband’s compound. The following day, Nwoye and Nwafor called at Chinwe’s family house. Their mission, they claimed, was to return her bride price and dissolve the marriage between their brother Ihenacho and the adulteress. They left as soon as their business was concluded.

Chinwe rubbed her stomach as she thought about her unborn child. Tears streamed down her face as the realization of what was about to happen to her hit her. She had truly disgraced herself, her children and her family; she thought. The next day was the market day and as sure as the rising of the sun, the elders would be at her father’s gate to lead her stark naked to the market. She got up from the verandah where she had been sitting and brushed the tears from her eyes. She went into one of the rooms and found the container she was looking for behind the door. She was going to end it tonight. She would not let her children suffer because of their mother’s indiscretion.

When one of her cousins was sent to wake her up in the morning, they found Chinwe cold and unresponsive, a can of rat poison on the floor beside her bed. The elders shook their heads at her misfortune and went away quietly. The women beat their chest and wailed loudly at Chinwe’s sad fate.

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“Please greet mama and papa for me”, Nnedi said as she hugged Ezinne tightly

“Tell them that I miss them”

Ezinne hugged her tightly.

The bus was getting ready to move. Ezinne’s sister, her sister’s husband and their three children were seated in the bus already. They were travelling to Umukau for the Christmas holidays.

“Please take care of the house and don’t forget to lock the door at night”, said Ezinne’s sister

“Yes ma”.

Nnedi waved at the bus as it zoomed off in a cloud of smoke and dust and cursed her fate; the fate that made it impossible to see her family. Going to Umuaku would mean risking the wrath of Ihenacho’s family. She turned spun round and trudged home silently.

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Moxie (12)

 

Nnedi finally realized why Ezinne’s oyibo madam winked when she mentioned that the Lugards might need a nanny soon. Mrs. Lugard was heavily pregnant and Nnedi wondered how the woman’s reed-like frame was able to support her bulging stomach. The Lugards were delighted when oyibo madam introduced Nnedi to them. It seemed oyibo madam had read their minds and Nnedi was asked to resume work immediately. Nnedi had a day off work once a week and on those days she made the trip from Ebutte-Metta to Oshodi. Though the face-me-I-face-you apartment she shared with Ezinne’s sister, the sister’s husband and their three children plus Ezinne was severely cramped, Nnedi relished whatever time she found to spend with them. First of all, she could speak Igbo freely after being subjected to speaking English with the Lugards all week. For Nnedi, being with Ezinne and her family was the closest she could be to Umuaku. Not a single day passed that she didn’t think of Chike and how he must have grown. She missed her mother, her father and grandfather.

The Lugards lived in a three-bedroom apartment and also had servants’ quarters at the back of the house. It appeared that the Lugards had developed a taste for Nigerian food and Mrs. Lugard liked to cook up a feast of Nigerian foods every other day; from pepper soup to nkwobi to yam pottage and her particular favourite of fried plantain also known as dodo.

Nnedi cleaned, washed, cooked, went to the market and ran errands for the Lugards. Most nights she plopped into bed exhausted, only to dash out of her room at the crack of dawn the following day; her apron strings trailing behind her as she struggled to tie them behind her back.

Mrs. Lugard liked everywhere to be spick and span. “I used to dust and clean the whole place myself while Dan is at work”, she said referring to her husband.

“But I can’t do that anymore”, she sighed patting her moon-shaped stomach

Nnedi returned to work after one of her ‘off’ days to discover that there was nobody in the Lugard residence. The gateman told her that Mrs. Lugard went into labour in the middle of the night and had to be rushed to the hospital. Mrs. Lugard returned in the company of her husband clutching the pinkest baby Nnedi had seen in her entire life. The babies back in Umuaku were chubby and full-haired but this one was wrinkled and bald. They named the baby Robert. Mrs. Lugard too looked worse for wear, like she had been dragged over a bed of nails.

A few days later Mrs. Lugard’s mother, a buxom white-haired matriarch came visiting which made Nnedi wonder where Mrs. Lugard inherited her slender build from.

As the days became weeks, it became obvious something was wrong. Nnedi thought that upon returning home, Mrs. Lugard would be revived by the maternal attention of her matronly mother but things only seemed to get worse. Mrs. Lugard receded into herself and would only speak unless spoken to. She lost weight drastically and the once-bubbly expectant mother transformed into a waif-like shadow of her former self. She refused to touch Robert; the baby would cry and cry and she often had to be cajoled by her husband and mother to breastfeed the child. During the day, Mrs. Lugard would sit at the front porch gazing into space and once her husband returned she retreated into her room where she ate dinner and would only emerge the following morning when Mr. Lugard had gone to work. Most nights, the entire house was kept awake by Mrs. Lugard’s loud sobs. When Mrs. Lugard’s mother sent her to the market to buy baby milk, Nnedi wondered what Mrs. Lugard had done with all the baby milk in her visibly engorged breasts.

That week when she got to Oshodi she narrated to Ezinne’s elder sister what was going on in the Lugard household. They wondered if it was some kind of demonic attack to have a baby and want nothing to do with it.

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Ik wiped the sweat from his brow as his truck hurtled on the tarmac. It was his return trip from Umuaku to Onitsha. Since Nnedi’s disappearance months ago, he had run into her father twice at the center of the town. The third time, he sighted the man from afar and ducked behind a truck. He knew Nnedi had still not returned home to Umuaku, his neighbours told him they saw her boarding a motorcycle in the direction of the Lagos motor park that fateful day so he suspected that was where she went. When he left police custody, he returned to the waiting arms of Uchenna whom his mother had left behind in Onitsha. Three months after, his mother returned and told him that Uchenna was pregnant and he needed to go and see her people before she started showing. Despite his pleas that he didn’t have enough money for the bride price, Ik was railroaded into throwing a lavish ceremony with virtually all of his savings. He resented the fact that he had to spend so much money to marry a woman he wasn’t even in love with and he often took it out on Uchenna.  Sometimes he felt guilty, like tonight when he returned to find her bent over the charcoal stove in the kitchen cooking his favourite ofe nsala soup and pounded yam. She straightened as she heard him approach to reveal her lumbering midsection. She enquired about his day and they made small talk before he went into the bathroom at the rear of the building to take his bath. When he returned to their one-room apartment, Uchena had set his tray of food beside the bed. She sat on the bed watching him as he gobbled up morsel after morsel of pounded yam. After she cleared the plates, he told her he was going to the next street to visit his friend. The minute he stepped out of the one room apartment, he dashed quickly to his old friend, the drug store owner and bought a pack of condoms before he headed to the brothel across the town. He sighed as he thought about why he had to dash across town twice every week to find sexual release. Ever since Uchenna took in, she had complained every time he tried to touch her. It also didn’t help that she was as big as an elephant now.

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He walked into the dimly-lit passage and went straight to her room and found her lying on the bed. Everybody called her Sweetie, nobody knew her real name. Nobody cared. He didn’t care. His turgid member was threatening to burst out of his trousers if he didn’t do something about it soon enough. He brought out a wad of currency notes and counted some and handed it to Sweetie, she took it and placed it in a wooden box and slid it under the bed then she proceeded to take off the skimpy skirt and bra she had on. Ik moved to switch off the lights; he did this every time he was Sweetie. Though Sweetie may not know the reason why he always switched off the lights but the dark helped him fantasize that he was with Nnedi.

The mattress dipped as he lay down beside her, he could still make out her elfin features in the dark so he shut his eyes tightly. He slid his hands between her legs and touched her intimately. He imagined he heard Nnedi whimpering in delight at his tender ministrations and when Sweetie buckled under his touch, it only served to fuel his need for Nnedi. He smiled inwardly as he buried his head in her breasts and sucked on one rock-hard nipple while twirling the other between his fingers. Her cries of pleasure were like music to his ears.  He imagined Nnedi’s hands all over him, rubbing his hair, his back. He felt her digging her heels into his butt, urging him on while he continued caressing her breasts. And when Sweetie guided him gently into her warmth, he groaned as he buried himself deeply inside her knowing that he had found his Nnedi once again. Suddenly, he felt Nnedi pushing her hips upward to meet him thrust for thrust as he screamed her name in climax. He wanted to hold on to Nnedi some more but his fantasy was cut short when Sweetie sprung out of the bed and switched on the light casting a red hue on the entire room. He silently put on his clothes and shuffled out of the dingy room into the night.

Sweetie was intrigued by this customer who always requested for the lights to be turned off, though she never asked him why. In her line of work, questions were quite unnecessary. She wondered who the woman was that she wielded so much power over him. The first time he called her Nnedi she was taken aback. But after four months of his bi-weekly visits, she was accustomed to his queerness. These days she even played along, asking him what he would like Nnedi to do for him. She however did not relish the fact that he always wanted to remain in bed and cuddle when she had other customers waiting to be serviced. As she wiped herself with tissue paper and sprayed some perfume she shook her head ruefully as she thought about how she had fled from home in Liberia when her mother’s new husband forced himself on her one night, only to end up as a sex worker in Onitsha.

When Ik got home, he found Uchenna in bed. He slid in quietly beside her so as not to wake her up. Guilt weighed on him like a bag of cement, pressing him into the tattered mattress. He closed his eyes and kept seeing Nnedi’s smiling face and her exquisite gap-tooth. Sleep eluded him.

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“We are going home”, said Mr. Lugard

“As you already know, my wife has been very sick since she had Robert”, he continued

“She needs to be treated by a Psychiatrist in London”

Nnedi stared at him as if he had suddenly grown three heads. Were there no doctors in Nigeria that could treat Mrs. Lugard?

“What is a psychiatrist, sir”, she asked curiously

“A psychiatrist is a doctor who treats mental and emotional disorders”

Nnedi slowly nodded as comprehension dawned on her.

She shut her eyes struggling to hide the tears that were already stinging them.

She knew something was wrong when Mr. Lugard didn’t go to work that morning and when he asked to see her in the living room later, her anxiety snowballed into outright dread. He asked her to sit down and she selected a brightly coloured ottoman and perched on it. Mrs. Lugard’s mother was rocking the baby to sleep on the front porch while Mrs. Lugard was in her room.

“We leave tomorrow morning”

“I know this is all very sudden for you but here is two months’ salary”, he said and handed her an envelope. You can clear out whatever supplies are left in the fridge and take them.

Nnedi knelt down and thanked him. The tears flowed down freely this time. She bade them goodbye and plodded back to her room in the servant’s quarters to start packing.

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Moxie (11)

 

dawan ejomah, dawanejomah, moxie, dawanspeaking.wordpress.comNnedi shook her head ruefully as she got down from the Molue at Mile 2. She would have to take another bus back to Oshodi she mused. Finally seated in the bus, she let her mind wander to that fateful afternoon when Ik’s mother came calling. It was the same day Ik had resumed work after the miscarriage. She was sitting on a chair by the window when she heard a key turn in the lock. She wondered if she was about to be robbed in broad day light. She stood up from the chair and rushed to crouch behind the curtain just as the door flung open

To her surprise it was no armed robber but two women. One was elderly, in her fifties; the other looked to be about her age. She wondered who they were and why they had a key to Ik’s apartment. She crept out slowly from behind the curtains startling the two visitors who by now were making themselves comfortable on the bed.

“Who are you?” the elderly woman asked

“And what were you doing behind that curtain?”

“My name is Nnedi”

“Are you Ik’s girlfriend?”

“No!”

Then what are you doing here?

“I live here”, Nnedi replied woodenly

“Look, I am his mother”, the woman continued impatiently. “And I have come to see my son”.

“I have also brought a wife for him from the village”, she said gesturing towards the younger female who remained silent.

“I suggest that you pack your things and start leaving. How can you be living with a man that is not your husband? All you girls of nowadays, remain in your mother’s house, you will not listen. You think it is by living with a man that he will marry you?”

“But mama I have nowhere to go”, Nnedi pleaded

“And how is that my concern? Don’t you have parents? Go back to your village”, she shouted

Nnedi felt hot tears sting her eyes.  Slowly she made her way to the door

“Come and take your things with you”, Ik’s mother hollered behind her

“I am coming ma”

She continued to the front of the compound. She decided she would wait outside for Ik to come. She sat on a stone by the road to wait for Ik’s return.

The afternoon sun had given way to the dark of nighttime, still no sign of Ik. Nnedi patted her chest for her money and sighed inwardly as she felt the familiar roll of currency notes safely ensconced in her bra. It was in that moment of waiting that Nnedi decided what she would do.

She stood up, brushed that dirt from her skirt and hailed a motorcycle

“Oga take me to Lagos Motor Park”, she had told the rider

When she got to the park, the last bus had just been filled, but she was told that there was space for passengers who were willing to sit on wooden stools in the bus’s aisle. Nnedi paid for one of such stools and bid a silent goodbye to Onitsha as the bus rolled out of the garage on its way to Lagos.

She reached Lagos the following day tired and sore from the journey. She had heard stories about Lagos and how the place was a land of opportunity. In her small town of Umuaku she had seen people travel to Lagos with only the shirt on their backs and return home a few years later with lots of money and cars. She wondered what it was in Lagos that made people so successful only after a few years.

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On her first night in Lagos, Nnedi slept at the bus park. She didn’t have enough money to go to a hotel as she had done in Onitsha besides she had learnt the hard way that hotels were unsafe for unaccompanied females. The bus park seemed safe enough, she thought. After all, people kept going and coming all night, even the food sellers sold food through the night. The Hausa man who roasted suya at the entrance to the park didn’t seem like he had any plans of shutting his eyes. Some of the bus drivers had gathered around a low table in a corner of the park to drink beer and they were talking and laughing loudly. A couple of skimpily clad girls loitered around the park and Nnedi noticed one of them being led by a driver into his bus. She finally emerged from the bus after what seemed like an eternity, on the heels of the driver, who was struggling with the zipper of his trousers. Soon she noticed some of the girls claiming the empty benches that were lying around. She moved to also secure one for herself and stretched her aching muscles on the uncomfortable platform. She thought about her family back in Umuaku, she imagined how Chidi must have grown. It had been six months since that fateful night of Ihenacho’s death when she had made the snap decision to run away. She thought about Ik and wished she had waited for him to come home before leaving unceremoniously. But then she didn’t know how much influence his mother wielded over him and she wasn’t willing to cause a quarrel between mother and son. When sleep finally came, she slipped into its gentle embrace goaded by exhaustion from her long and arduous trip to Lagos.

Nnedi was awoken by the sound of a male voice from a megaphone announcing various destinations. She opened her eyes to the bustle of activity going on around her noticing that it wasn’t even daybreak yet. She stood up and smoothed her rumpled clothing as best as she could before making her way to the entrance of the park. There were people everywhere, even this early in the day, with different sizes of luggage all trying to board a vehicle to one destination or another outside Lagos. She slid out of the park and onto the street which was no less crowded.

Nnedi continued walking, not knowing where she was going. Everything seemed so strange to her. She saw huge, yellow buses filled with people, sitting and standing. Others were holding on to the open door of the bus, their feet only just scraping the coal tar as the bus sped on, oblivious to the fact that they could be flung to a certain death at any time. She saw street hawkers, children going to school, a street preacher, and a drunkard who had spent the night in a gutter and was only just stumbling out of the mire.

“Nnedi”!

Nnedi turned wondering who knew her in this strange city. When she didn’t see any familiar face, she continues walking

“Nnedi”!

This time the voice sounded closer and she turned again.

Nnedi narrowed her eyes as recognition set in. It was Ezinne, her classmate in primary school.

“What are you doing here?” Ezinne asked breathlessly

“I saw you as you walked past. I wasn’t certain it was you so I followed”

Nnedi nodded silently

“So what brings you to Lagos?”

“Work”

I need a job”, Nnedi elaborated

“Where do you live?”

“Nowhere for now”

Ezinne nodded sympathetically

“I work as a cleaner for an Oyinbo family in Ebute Metta but I live in Oshodi with my elder sister and her husband. I came here to buy food stuff with our chief cook.”

“You can follow us home so that I can introduce you to the Oyibo madam. She is a very nice woman. I’m sure she can find something for you to do”

A curved, tree-lined driveway led up to the white-washed, two-storey house with black wooden shutters. Ezinne took her to the servants’ quarters where she had a bath and was lent a clean blouse and skirt. They entered the big house through the kitchen and Nnedi was assailed by the smell of food being cooked. Her stomach grumbled as if in protest of being reminded that it had not received any nourishment since she left Onitsha three days ago.

Just then the Oyibo madam entered the kitchen

“Good afternoon, Aunty”, Ezinne greeted

“Good afternoon,” replied the white lady liltingly

“And who is this with you”, she asked, turning to face Nnedi exposing even, white teeth

“Aunty, she is my friend from the village. We went to primary school together”

“Wonderful”, replied the Oyibo madam

“My name is Mrs. Carter but everybody calls me Aunty”, she introduced in her sonorous voice.

“What’s your name?”

“Nnedi”

“Aunty, Nnedi just came to Lagos from our village. She needs work”, Ezinne supplied

“Well, I don’t have anything for you to do now. But I will ask Mrs. Lugard next door. They might need a nanny soon”, she winked.

Nnedi didn’t know how to react to the Oyibo woman’s warm-heartedness. This was the first time she would be this close to white person. The other times were back at Umuaku where she barely caught glimpses of the white men in the Ministry of Agriculture where her father worked as a Forestry Manager.

“You can show your friend to your room, Ezinne”, said Oyibo madam, dismissing them both.

As they walked back to the servant’s quarters, Ezinne suggested, “Tomorrow is my day off, so we can go to Oshodi together”

“Let us go so that you can gist me all that has been happening in Umuaku since I left”

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Okoye came back the following night as promised. In fact, he couldn’t do anything useful all day as he continually replayed the events of the previous night in his head. The danger of being caught heightened his excitement as he scratched at Chinwe’s window. They had both agreed that he should not be caught knocking on her door but give a signal by scratching her window. Chinwe flew into his arms as she opened the door and he had to restrain himself from taking her right there on the floor by the door. He allowed her to guide him to the bed and when he spread her knees, he found her pulsing and wet. She reached up impatiently and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him to herself and when he entered her, he found her warm, wet center so welcoming. He rode her until they were joyfully gasping with their mutual release.

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Moxie (10)

moxie, dawanejomah, dawan ejomah, naijastories, naija stories, nnedi, ik

Ik’s mother and Uchenna stared in bewilderment as the police van sped off leaving behind a trail of smoke and dust. By the time they found their way to the police station, Ik was already locked up in one of the cells. They were not allowed to see him, not even his mother. They were told to go and get a male relative to begin Ik’s bail proceedings.

Ik sighed as he took in his surroundings. This was his second week in this dark, dank cell. There was barely standing space but he managed to carve a corner of the small room for himself where he was huddled in despair as the nights quickly became day and the days became night. He shuddered as something crawled past his foot in the darkness. For the past two weeks his mother and Uche had brought food to him every morning and evening. Sometimes he was able to enjoy the meal in peace, but more often than not, his cooler of food was seized by the ‘chairman’ of the cell. Rumor had it that he killed someone at a bar during a drunken brawl.

Not a day passed that he didn’t think of Nnedi. He wondered where she might be. The Polices’ investigation yielded nothing. It seemed like she had conveniently dropped off the face of the earth. He remembered the nights they spent in each other’s arms, the softness of her flesh and the perkiness of her breasts. How she would deftly guide his hand up her thigh to find her sweet, wet center…..

Ik cursed the fate that brought him such ill-luck. His family was still unable to satisfy his bail conditions hence his continued stay in the cell. He had given his elder brother all his money and even borrowed some from the Lorry Drivers Association yet it wasn’t enough. Most nights he cried. He wasn’t ashamed to cry.

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“Good afternoon, mama”

“Welcome, my son”

“How was school today?”

“Fine mama”

“Good! Your food is in the cooler inside the shop. Go and wash your hands and eat”

Oriaku let her eyes linger on her son as he made his way into the shop to eat. These days she could barely let him out of her sight. If it wasn’t that schooling was important, she would have gladly stopped him from going to school. She let her mind wander to that day, three months ago when she had been so close to holding her daughter in her arms once again. She had hopped on Ik’s lorry with high hopes of reuniting with her daughter in Onitsha. That Nnedi had disappeared without a trace was still a shock to her. When the police invited her to come and identify the body of a young girl they had found in the bushes along the Onitsha-Umuaku expressway she thought that she would finally get closure.  Instead she and Okeke came back from Onitsha more distraught by the episode; the body of the young girl had been severely mutilated and it was thought to be the handiwork of ritualists. Eventually, the police was forced to release Ik after they ran out of leads. The case was officially closed and the Okeke’s were told to take Nnedi’s disappearance in good faith.

The day Ik regained his freedom was like any other day for him. He wasn’t even happy; he was just relieved to be going home to the comfort of his own bed after two months of crouching in the most unsanitary living quarters he had seen in his entire life.  His mother had returned to the village leaving Uchenna behind but not before instructing her to ensure that she brought food to him in the police cell. Soon he came to look forward to her daily visits. He asked her about her family and life in the village before his mother brought her to Onitsha. She seemed a bit shy and really didn’t speak except when spoken to. Her cooking was however exceptional and the few times Ik was allowed to enjoy his meal in peace without it being snatched by the other inmates, he savoured every morsel of food.

When the news of Nnedi’s second disappearance soon filtered into the small town, Okoye made it a point of duty to pay the Okeke’s a visit. He told them how God doesn’t sleep and that they thought they had hidden Nnedi from the reach of men but God had chosen to visit his wrath upon her even in hiding. He told them their daughter was cursed and that he regretted allowing his brother to marry her. The Okeke’s listened silently as he went on and on. When he was done, he picked up his cane, stood up and left.

****************************************************************

Okeke couldn’t get his brother’s first wife, Chinwe out of his mind.  As the first wife of Ihenaco, Chinwe was secluded from the rest of his wives to mourn her husband. Her children and friends were allowed to visit her but she slept alone as custom demands. Surely such a beautiful woman who had lost her husband suddenly would have cravings. He hatched a plan in his mind to pay Chinwe a visit the following night.

“Chinwe, Chinwe”, he whispered at her door

The compound was quiet and he prayed that no one would stumble upon him before Chinwe let him in.

“Who is it”, Chinwe asked from within

“It’s me, Okoye”

He heard movements within and moments later she let him in.

He adjusted his eyes to the darkness as he stood facing Chinwe his back against the door.

“How have you been?” he asked

“I’ve been better”

He nodded silently

She moved to the side of the bed and lit the hurricane lantern casting an amber hue on both of them. Even in the dim light of the hurricane lantern, he could make out her contours through the single wrapper she tied across her chest.

She was sitting on thr bed now and he joined her there. He raised his hand to caress her cheek and she flinched

“Relax”

“I know you want it too”

He took her hand and placed it on his burgeoning need. She watched as it sprang out of his trousers when he unzipped his fly.

“This is what you do to me”, he whispered

Chinwe swallowed hard. She didn’t know what to make of Okoye’s advances. Yes it had been really long since she felt the touch of a man but she felt like she was betraying Ihenacho.

As if reading her thoughts Okoye blurted, “Nobody will find out”

“Even if people find out, you are my brother’s wife. I can as well marry you”

She smiled at his last statement as he tugged her wrapper from her chest and let it slide to the floor. Okoye quickly divested himself of his clothes and joined her on the bed. He marveled at how she had not an ounce of flab on her even after five children. He wondered why Ihenacho would scorn all this sweetness for that fingerling of a girl who eventually killed him. Well, Ihenacho’s loss was his gain and he wasn’t complaining.

Chinwe matched him thrust for thrust and when he finally found release, he clung to her as if for dear life.

“You have to go now”, she said without preamble

“We can’t be seen together yet. At least not like this”

“I know”

“I will see you tomorrow night”, he said as he rolled off her

He dressed quickly and handed her, her wrapper but not before he playfully smacked her backside. She bunched up the wrapper and threw it at his head just as he shut the door behind him, missing him by a hair’s breath. She stared at the door and exhaled, she couldn’t wait for tomorrow night.

***************************************************************

She was back at home. She was playing hide and seek with her friends Nnenna and Akunna in her father’s compound. Her mother had called her from the kitchen and she excused herself from her friends to answer her mother. She got to the kitchen to find the cooking fires all extinguished and the kitchen dark. She wondered what her mother was doing in the dark. She called out to her mother but all she heard was silence. A pair of hands grabbed her throat and throttled her so violently in the dark; she thought she was going to die. She clawed at the vice-like grip with all her might hoping to free herself from certain death.

She opened her eyes and realized that it was just dream. A very real and scary dream, she thought. She saw people staring at her like she had grown a pair of horns; especially after seeing her wrestle eyes closed with an unseen entity.

Mile 2, owa oh”, she heard someone announce

She looked around and remembered where she was. She had boarded a Molue from Ebutte-Metta to Oshodi.

Mile 2, owa oh”, yelled another passenger

Her eyes widened as she realized that she had slept off and missed her stop.

Welcome to Lagos, she sighed.

dawan ejomah, dawanejomah, naija stories, moxie, nnedi, ik

 

 

 

Moxie (9)

 

dawanspeaking, dawan ejomah, dawanejomah, moxie

One week after Nnedi’s miscarriage, Ik decided it was time to go back to work. As he got ready to leave the house that morning, he saw Nnedi staring at him like a wounded pigeon. He sighed.

“But I have to go and work for us to eat now”, he began without preamble

“I know”, she replied

“So why are you looking at me like that?” he queried.

“Like how?”

“Do you want me to take you home to Umuaku so your mother can look after you?”

“Noooooo!!!!!!!” she cried

“You want them to kill me?”

He knew she was referring to her late husband’s people as “them”

He bit his lip and walked out of the room into the dawning day.

When he got to the park, his lorry was second on the queue. That meant he could get to Umuaku as early as possible and pay the Okeke’s a visit.

“My son, you’re welcome”, Oriaku greeted him delightedly

“How is my daughter?”

“Mama, I’m afraid I have some bad news”, Ik said somberly

“What is it”, quizzed Oriaku, a frown creasing her forehead

“Nnedi had a miscarriage a week ago”, he continued

Tufiakwa”, spat Oriaku

“I asked her to come here with me but she refused. She said Ihenacho’s people will kill her.”

“A week, a whole week and it is now you are coming?”

“Why didn’t you come and tell me since, so that is how my daughter would have died like a chicken in your house”, Oriaku sobbed.

And it was in that moment of grief that an idea entered her head.

“Let us go”

“To where ma?” asked Ik in confusion

“To Onitsha”

Ik knew it was useless to argue with her as she started walking briskly to his lorry. He followed her quietly.

**************************************************************

The door to the room was ajar. Ik wondered why Nnedi would open the door so wide at night as if she hadn’t suffered enough in the hands of malaria-causing mosquitoes.

He heard his mother’s voice and that was when he knew something was wrong. He looked back at Oriaku and motioned to her to wait in the passage before he entered the room.
Continue reading

Moxie (8)

“Let us go and see my daughter”, cried Oriaku in excitement

“You are not going anywhere”, butted in Okeke

“Didn’t you hear when Okoye said he was watching our every move? You want to lead those wolves back to her?”

Oriaku’s face fell in disappointment. She looked at her father-in-law who was nodding in agreement to what her husband had just said. She knew she had lost the battle.

“My son”, Okeke said, turning his attention to Ik.

“Thank you for bringing this good news to us and for giving our daughter a safe place to lay her head. Only God in heaven can reward you”

“Amen”, they all chorused

Before he left, Oriaku offered him food but he declined. He bade them goodbye and got into his lorry. When he got home, he told Nnedi how the visit to her parents went. She clapped her hands in delight and jumped up and down like a child with a new toy and when he returned from the bathroom, he found her standing at the foot of the bed in all her naked glory. This time no words were said as her silent invitation was all that Ik needed to slake his thirst for her velvety sweetness.

Finally resting in each other’s arms, Nnedi whispered a thank you in his ears and he felt as if he had grown a couple of inches taller. He hugged her tighter.

*****************************************************************

Ihenacho’s burial was held amidst weeping and mourning. Continue reading

#EWC16

So a couple of weeks ago I hosted the Eminent Women Conference 2016 with the theme “Break Out”.

When the convener of the conference, Njideka Raleke-Obiora contacted me to be the emcee, I was super excited. Just one look at the caliber of ladies who were headlining the conference and I told Njideka I was in.

Dawan Ejomah, dawanspeaking, master of ceremonies

Yours truly on the microphone

When I introduced myself as the host of the day, I noticed some of the participants were looking at me like, who is this one sef? But in no time I had them all up on their feet playing one game or another and got them prepped for the speakers. One task they had to accomplish very early on in the conference was to describe themselves with an adjective that begins with the first letter of their name. I gave them an example; I told them that I would like to be addressed as “Diligent Dawan” throughout the conference. The ladies loved it and we started hearing names like, “Charming Chioma”, “Blessed Belinda”, “Extraordinary Esther” etc.

dawan ejomah, dawan speaking, master of ceremonies

Cross section of participants

It was a very informative, educative and entertaining experience for me. In between my hosting duties, I found time to listen to the women who shared their Break Out experiences. From Inyang Sami- Orungbe (Partner Averti Professionals) who spoke about the need for women to see each other as sisters and build synergies between each other to the visionary Tope Olagbegi (CEO Sixth Sense Interiors) a serial entrepreneur from as far back as her days in UNILAG where she sold lingerie, to the philanthropist Chinyere Anokwuru (Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Lagos state on Women Ethnic groups, Mobilization and Empowerment) whose grass to grace story brought tears to our eyes, #EWC16 was a hit back to back.

Dawan Ejomah, dawanspeaking, master of ceremonies

Panel discussion. L-R: Chinyere Anokwuru, Bisi Soji-Oyawoye, Inyang Sami-Orungbe, Tope Olagbegi and Njideka Raleke-Obiora

Want to know the best part of this conference? Wait for it…….. There were twelve, yes twelve women from various fields of endeavor to train participants free of charge in the following areas: Makeup, fashion and style, bookkeeping for small businesses, etiquette and poise, photography, marketing, social media, baking, brand communication etc.

According to the convener, Njideka Raleke-Obiora, she did not want a conference where women would come, listen to feel-good, motivational speeches only to return to the status-quo once they got home. The trainings were designed to empower the participants in whatever area of their choosing and connect them to a mentor in that field.

ewc2016

Question and answer time

Many thanks to Njideka and all the exceptional women who made this year’s conference a reality. I am grateful for the valuable connections I made that day. As I told the participants, I look forward to another Eminent Women Conference in 2017, God-willing.

Dawan Ejomah, Master of ceremonies, dawan speaking, Njideka Raleke-Obiora, Inyang Sami-Orungbe, Bisi Soji-Oyawoye

I’m rolling with the big-wigs. Mom look at how we made it. lol

PS: There was a hair-raising musical performance from Tarrah