Chidera walked up to the girl seated at the furthest desk from the door in the library, and smiled. She was hunched over a pile of books, some opened and others with bookmarks sticking out, but he quickly observed the voluminous thesaurus she appeared to be poring over wasn’t the object of her focus, but was simply covering up a much smaller notepad she was furiously scribbling into.
My Den of Secrets
Posted by FemmeFaçade in My Life on July 27, 2012
My family is a joke. I swear. I wish I could write more on this blog but I guess it’s not yet time. I think I’m going to do a tell-all post soon. Graduation day is as good a day as any to let all my secrets out. Besides, I will start showing in a few months so the secrets are already on their way out.
Oh, I didn’t tell you guys I found out I’m pregnant three days ago. Well I am and mummy will kill me. He will too actually. Fuck! My life is a clusterfuck. I swear even Jesus would need to soak my life in detergent and bleach for a few days before he started trying to wash it.
Mosun sat perfectly still on the leather cushion of the desk chair and let the office spin out of control around her.
The word echoed loudly at the very centre of her brain, refusing to be suppressed, even as she tried to wrap her mind around it. How could this possibly be? She thought to herself as her eldest daughter Bisola and Dr. Ndukwe stood on both sides of her. She stared blankly at them, seeing nothing but that word dancing around in colourful fonts and varying sizes before her eyes. She saw their lips move, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. All hear cognitive functions seemed to be focusing on deciphering the one puzzle she was most concerned about. ‘Sola was pregnant.’ PREGNANT!! She screamed at herself inside her head and almost slumped out of her chair. Someone might as well have been shouting it at her while banging on a gong.
A hand on her shoulder steadied her and shook her gently, breaking her out of her reverie. Mosun slowly turned to see who was touching her and came face to face with Bisola who was now standing and looking down on her, her face and eyes a mirror of the worry, fear and shock Mosun felt inside. All at once, the reservoir of strength she’d managed to pull from since her daughter’s lifeless body was discovered fled her, and pure, unadulterated fear took its place. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words would form so she buried her head in her hands instead and started to cry.
Chidera walked up to the girl seated at the furthest desk from the door in the library, and smiled. She was hunched over a pile of books, some opened and others with bookmarks sticking out, but he quickly observed the voluminous thesaurus she appeared to be poring over wasn’t the object of her focus, but was simply covering up a much smaller notepad she was furiously scribbling into. Anyone who saw her could tell she was extremely upset about something; if not from her not so discrete attack of the pages of the notepad opened in from her, and then by her furrowed brow and the heat and tension she seemed to be emanating.
He stood behind her for a couple of seconds, quietly observing her and wondering when she’d notice his presence. Waiting wasn’t a problem for him at the time, on account for the fact that he really didn’t have anywhere else to be. So, he stood, taking in her smallish frame, and trying to guess what had made her so angry she had to pull out what he figured, from the intricate flower detailing at the edges, was a diary, and vent in a corner of the school’s library.
Fascinated by her, he’d always been. Something about her he felt drew him to her. It wasn’t just that she was new, or because she was the smartest in their 8th grade class. What nagged at him was that, when she talked, or smiled, or even laughed, he could feel a darkness surrounding her, lacing her words and shadowing her actions. The darkness was what he identified with.
For that reason, he’d longed to get closer to her; pick at her mind, find out what made her tick. Chidera had always loved puzzles, and solving her would bring him immense satisfaction, he assumed. So far, he’d only been able to hang out with her in a group and that didn’t really allow opportunities to have the kind of conversations with her he’d really like to. Fate had dealt him an excellent hand, he thought, when their Biology teacher announced that they would be lab partners.
“It’s rude to stare.”
Her soft voice pulled him back to the present. She’d spoken without even bothering to glance up from what she was doing. A smile spread across his face. “Hi, Sola”
“Miriam!!!” Nwando squealed and wrapped her arms around her slightly smaller friend. The groups of people seated at King Pin turned their focus to the two standing at the edge of the cafe, and most of them rolled their eyes. Right then, Nwando didn’t care. She engulfed Miriam in a bear hug and squealed again! “Is this you?!”
Miriam giggled and struggled to wriggle free of Nwando’s hold. “Oh, Nwando Stop!” Her high-pitched voice and giggles rang through the open space, attracting even more attention. “People are staring.”
Nwando was unperturbed. “Let them stare! Do they know when last I saw you?” At that, she squeezed Miriam even tighter and it was only when her attempt to lift her off the ground was unsuccessful that she let her go. The two sat down at a table still giggling like teenage girls. “Where have you been, Miriam? You just disappeared! Nobody even saw your brake light.”
Miriam sighed “Mhen, babe. You won’t even believe me if I told you.”
“What is it? Did you kill someone?”
Miriam laughed. “Relax, jareh, its nothing like that. In fact…” She reached into her purse, pulled out a small velvet parcel and pushed it across the table to Nwando. “Open it.”
Nwando eyed the pouch suspiciously. “What is it?” Miriam just stared back at her, smiling. Finally, she picked the parcel up tentatively and unravelled it.
Again, everyone seated at the cafe and hanging around its environs turned to throw nasty glances in Nwando’s direction, and again, she didn’t care. She picked up the antique halo diamond engagement ring and stared closer at it with her mouth agape. “Where did you get this, Miriam? My God!”
A coy smile played on Miriam’s lips. “It’s mine. I’m engaged now.”
“Engaged?” Nwando’s eyes grew large in their sockets, “How? Engaged to whom?”
“I’m about to tell you. That’s why I came back.” She held up her hand before Nwando could say anything else. “Just listen. You remember the last time we were at Aqua together I was with Felix? After you left, he took me to meet one of the guys that own the club, Amechi. So, he took my number. Told me to come and see him the next day.” She paused to make sure Nwando was listening. “So, I went to his house expecting to service him and get paid, you know as per usual. Do you know this man sat me down and talked to me?”
Nwando scoffed. “Talked to you ke? Ohhhh Miriam, get to the sweet part!”
“I said listen now! He started telling me things oh. How I’m a very pretty girl and shouldn’t be living this kind of life. All that kind of plenty lectures. So, I explained to him that we do what we need to for survival, Abi?” Nwando nodded “Sha, this man asked me what I would be doing with my life if I had the opportunity. And I told him I wanted to go back to school.”
“He did it.”
“Did what?” Nwando raised an eyebrow.
“It” Miriam said simply.
When Miriam got coy like this, it got on Nwando’s nerves and she knew it. Fully aware that if she let her impatience get the best of her, this conversation would veer off into another direction and she would never hear the rest of it, Nwando took deep breaths and did her best to maintain her calmness. “What did he do, Miriam?”
Miriam laughed again. “He put me in a school in the US. University of Michigan. Paid my full tuition and even let me stay in one of his apartments there, Nwando.”
Nwando almost jumped out of her seat. “HAAAAY!!!!”
“Shh.” Miriam glanced around nervously. “Stop shouting now.”
“If I don’t shout what else will I do?” Nwando countered “He did what?!?!”
“Anyway, that’s where I’ve been; in school. He asked me to marry him so I came home to put a few things in order.”
“Mhen, Miriam. Your own is good.” Nwando said, still gushing over the ring. “I’m happy for you.” She paused. “But you know an engagement ring is meant to be worn ba?”
Miriam laughed and put the parcelled ring back in her purse. “Are you the one that will tell me how to wear my ring?”
“Toh, don’t be angry.”
Miriam laughed again, and then took her friend’s hands in hers and looked at her sternly “What’s been up with you, Nwando? Tell me.”
Mosun stood in the hospital hallway clutching her chest and trying to regain her composure. The news about Sola’s pregnancy had hit her harder than she was prepared for and her mind was a mess. A multitude of incoherent thoughts jumbled up inside her head and made her weak with despair. She knew she had to find a way to be strong again, for the sake of her children, but she couldn’t do it alone. Sighing, she retrieved her phone from her purse, held down the ‘D’ button, and smiled as her phone started calling Jide Awofikayo.
Jide. Her best friend and soul mate. How had she not thought to call him sooner? Of course, he’d started calling her as soon as the news of Sola’s death was broadcast on national TV, but she’d neglected to take any of his calls. Talking to him then, as appealing as it was, just seemed rather unseemly; especially since the realisation of the loss of her daughter was yet to fully settle. But she needed him now, for comfort and strength her husband could not provide. “Hello, Jide?”
“Darling, How are you?!” Even over the phone, his worry and sincere concern was evident in his voice. “I’ve been trying to get through to you.”
Mosun felt a pang of guilt. “I’m sorry, dear. Things have just been so…”
“Don’t apologise, Mosun. I understand. I’m just worried about you.” He paused to let her speak but she stayed silent, holding back the tears that threatened to start again “How are you holding up?”
Quivering, and somehow managing not to sound like a blubbering teenager, Mosun told Jide how she was an emotional wreck, how the doctor had told her Sola was pregnant, and how every bit of strength she’d managed to pull on had left her as soon as she’d heard. He listened as she ranted, letting her get everything off her chest. “I just don’t know what to do, Jide.” A slight sob escaped her as she spoke into the handset, and the presence of a couple passing through the hallway forced her to quickly regain composure.
When Jide spoke, his voice was level, almost stern. “Mosun, I need you to listen to me. I know you’re going through a lot right now, but you will pull through this.” He paused and she nodded like he could see her “No one can know about this latest development concerning Sola.” Jide continued. “It’s bad enough that she was murdered, giving rise to all sorts of speculation. Her reputation, as well as that of your entire family, will suffer greatly should the media get wind of this. You will instruct the doctor to bury this information. I will wire you some money to keep him quiet.”
“You don’t need to send me money. There is plenty here.” Mosun interrupted.
“I will wire you some money to keep him quiet.” Jide carried on with his instructions, ignoring her. “I trust you haven’t told anyone else?”
“No.” Mosun shook her head, again like he could see her “But I’m here with Bisola, so she knows.”
“Good. Bisola is reasonable. Explain to her that she needs to keep this a secret. Meanwhile, I’ll start tidying up some business here and come in to Abuja this weekend.”
The thought of Jide coming into town caused a grin to spread across Mosun’s face. “What would I do without you, Jide?”
She could hear his smile in his voice. “I’m sure you’d get along just fine, babe.”
Chidera and Sola giggled as the librarian shushed them for what would be the sixth time in the hour that they’d been there. What was intended to be a study session had turned into a different kind of meeting of minds. They’d talked about several things from school, to interests, and even to embarrassing moments. And then things had turned serious for a bit and they’d talked about their families. Sharing information as personal as that had never come so easily to Sola before and a part of her marvelled at how this one person had managed to get her to spill out her insides in one afternoon. What excited and scared her was that it all felt so natural; like she was reconnecting with an old friend. She didn’t feel the need to hold anything back as he sat there listening intently as she spilled and spilled without reservations. And then he’d shared with her as well, his own story. Everything he said, she could relate to on some level. The whole thing felt ridiculously surreal.
They’d migrated from the stiff desks to the reading corner of the library and made themselves comfortable on one of the massive bean bags. There, they’d gone back to joking around and annoying the librarian endlessly. As they recovered from their latest fit of giggles, Chidera turned to Sola “You know what would be cool?”
“What?” Sola’s eyes were bright with expectation. All the ideas and thoughts that came from Chidera’s mind were gold in Sola’s opinion, except of course, the ones she never hesitated to point out were clearly nonsensical.
“A blog?” Sola repeated, sceptical. “Like, online?”
“Sure.” Chidera was unmoved. “It beats carrying a journal around and you’d have a lot more space to really get things off your chest.”
Sola thought about it for a moment. “I don’t want everyone reading about my personal life.”
“So, make it fictional. Or Anonymous. Change names. Places. Make the blog private.” Chidera counted off on his fingers. “For someone so smart, you lack a lot of creativity.”
Giggling, Sola punched him in the arm “Shut up!”
“I’m just saying.” He raised his arms submissively and spoke in his faux, atrocious igbo accent “Hey, Nna, Bebeh geh, Don’t hate meh because you can’t handel deh trooth.” And they both burst into another fit of laughter, attracting more shushing; this time from the library users themselves.
Mosun noticed a police car in their drive way as she pulled up to the house. The car ride home from the hospital had been filled with awkward silence and even more awkward forced conversations. Explaining why the news about Sola had to be kept a secret, as understanding as Bisola had been, had felt wrong to her. However, she’d done what she needed to. She wasn’t sure she, her sham of a marriage, or her family as a whole would be able to withstand the ensuing onslaught should the information be made public. Either way, she was glad to be back home and hopeful that the presence of the police car meant good news.
Bisola parked the car and they both walked in silence to the house. Once inside, they made their way to the common sitting room, where the police would be, and found Inspector Mustapha in the process of interrogating Yinka. They stood at the doorway for a bit, observing the scene before them. Losing Sola seemed to have hit Yinka more than most. His usual cheerful, energetic demeanour had been replaced with sarcasm and brooding. Bisola could hear the cold undertones in his voice as he rebuffed the Inspector’s questions, made snide remarks or gave really sarcastic replies. She understood where he was coming from, wished her brother would at least try to be a little bit helpful.
Inspector Nuhu leaned back into the sofa crossed his legs and stared hard at Yinka. “You need to understand I’m not your enemy, Yinka. I’m trying to find who killed your sister.”
Yinka scoffed “And you think the best way to do so is by interrogating the grieving family? Do you understand what you are doing?”
“You’re her family. You should be able to give us some insight on her movement, friends, and things like that. Useful information like that could help us find out who did this”
“And I told you, most times, Sola kept to herself at home.” Yinka got up and headed towards the door. “Abeg, if you’re looking for information, question that Chidera boy. They spent all their time together.” With that, he left the room, brushing past his mum and sister on his way out.
“I’m sorry about that, inspector.” Mosun said, entering the room and taking a seat opposite the inspector.
“That’s fine, madam. I’d like to talk to Bisola for a bit.”
Mosun rubbed her daughter’s arm “I’m not sure that’s very possible right now. We just got back from the hospital.”
“It’s okay, mummy.” Bisola said and smiled at the inspector “Anything to help.”
HOUSE ON THE ROCK
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