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.
“Good afternoon, mama”
“Welcome, my son”
“How was school today?”
“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
“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 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.