I returned from evening lesson one day, tired and famished. Luckily, my mother had just finished preparing dinner.
After eating, mummy called me and said I should sit very close to her. I did and she started talking.
“My son,” she called, looking me straight in the eyes, “there are some things I need to tell you about my life which I believe now is the right time for it. You have always been asking me who Mr. Nwanne is and my reply has always been that he is your father’s friend…Yes he is your father’s friend and the one responsible for my meeting your father. When your father was running out of the country when police started looking for him, he told Mr. Nwanne to always visit us and ensure everything is n with us…”
“What exactly do you want me to gain from all these you are telling me?” I interrupted.
“Thank you, my dear… I just want you to know that a favour he is to this family, so that you’ll respect him…”
“Did he complain I was rude to him?”
“Not at all my dear…It is just that I want you to appreciate him the more…”
“I pledge, mum,” I said jocularly.
I started relating more to Mr.Nwanne. He was a very jovial person, and this even drew me very close to him. I got to know his children and we were best of friends. Mum was very pleased I took her advice; why would not I? She was such an interesting and understanding mother.
During the long vacation, Mum and I travelled to Cote d’ Voire where dad was living. That was the first time we would be visiting since he fled two years earlier. We only communicated on phone. He was very happy.
“Hilda,” dad called mother after he had shown us around his bungalow apartment, “you never told me you were going to come the last time we spoke on phone.”
Mum laughed and said: “Are you surprised?”
“Why won’t I?”
“That is the purpose it is meant to serve… and also to be a trap kind of…”
“A trap?” Asked dad confused
“For the Cote d’voire maidens…”
“You know I won’t do that to you. You are so special to me that I dare not do anything that ‘ll jeopardise our relationship, even if for this big boy’s sake.” He beckoned me to come closer.
Dad and mum discussed into the wee hours. I was in my room, hearing everything they were saying. I noticed one thing recurring during their discussion. Dad was always full of praises for Mr. Nwanne. A great and trustworthy man, he described him. Then I saw no over-statement in the qualification.
On our last night in Cote d’viore, I could not but put forward some questions to daddy.
“Daddy,” I called,” I want to ask you some question… I hope you’ll answer them.”
“Why not, my dear? Go ahead.”
“Why can’t we live together as a family?”
I noticed he looked emotional.
“That is a big question. But I think you know the reason why I’ve to leave Nigeria…”
“Yes I know that…Dad, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not asking that we all go back and live in Nigeria. What I mean is, living here together as one small united family.”
“Now I get your message,” he said, looking and sounding less emotional,” Do you know I’ve three houses in Nigeria?”
“If we all leave Nigeria, what will become of our belongings that are immovable? But never worry yourself too much. When your mother comes out of the kitchen, we’ll plan out how we’ll be meeting regularly, not through phones but physically.”
“That’ll be great!” I shouted.
I fell seriously ill after returning to Lagos. Mother was very frightened. The medical reports created the impression I was going to die.
“I’m afraid, madam,” said a doctor at a private hospital located in one of my father’s houses.
“You’ve to take him to the Teaching Hospital. Hopefully, they’ll be able to handle the situation better. I’ve not experienced this kind of typhoid fever in my life… I have applied the treatment in my capacity… and in order to avoid any mishap, I advise he be moved immediately to the Teaching Hospital.”
“Are you sure that will help?” A confused mum managed to ask.
“Let’s put everything in the hands of God. He knows all and can do all.”
In the company of Mr. Nwanne and his first son, Jonah, who had become my friend, mum took me to the Teaching Hospital.
“You’ll deposit the sum of ten thousand naira…”
“Ten thousand naira… is this not supposed to be a government hospital?”
“You are very correct, madam,” the woman at the counter said, “But government has not been disbursing enough funds to the hospital, so there is need to generate fund internally.”
Mr Nwanne paid the money and treatment commenced immediately. Mum hugged him appreciation of his generous disposition to us. I also thanked him.
For the one month I spent in the hospital, mum was always there for me to lean on. I would not know if she took time out to do some other things, but the much I knew, she was ever there telling me I would walk out of the hospital with my two legs.
Dad too was ever sending cards or speaking to me on phone. In one of his cards, he wrote some line which nothing, not even time can obliterate in my memory.
I eventually walked out of the hospital with my two legs. I had missed a lot in school, but being a brilliant chap I was able to cope. My friends helped out in copying the notes I’d missed. But another headache was to hit me when I was almost setting down in school.
“Dennis,” mum called, “please my dear I want you to go to the Island to get me these things” she handed me a list of provisions.
“The driver is not around,” she continued, “so you’ll have to take a taxi…”
“No problem,” I assured.
She gave me the money and I left the house. Unfortunately, (or is it fortunately) I could not get a taxi at the amount she had given me. It was one of the periods when black Gold was not much in circulation, despite our country being among the global producer of petroleum products.
I returned home to see Mr. Nwanne’s car in our compound. When I walked into the living room, neither mum nor Mr. Nwanne was there. I wondered where they could be. I sat in the living room for some time before I moved near mum’s room upstairs.
“You are such an irresistible person. I always have fun having you around…I wonder what life would be without you around.” I heard a voice I recognised to be my mother’s say. I kept my ears very close to the door a as to hear clearly. Meanwhile, I prayed it would not be what my mind was telling me. Was my prayer answered?
“I remember something,” said a voice I recognised to be Mr. Nwanne’s.
“What is that?” My mother asked.
“I’ve a card for you here…”
“Let me have it now. It is for your birthday.”
“For your birthday and also to tell you how important you are to me.”
There was a silence, suggesting they were kissing or doing things of that sort. My God, my own mother! My head was rising painfully.
“You’ll follow me to that party,” said Mr. Nwanne
“Which party?” Mother asked and immediately added, “Okay, now I remembered. We will go. No stopping it.”
I could not stand it any longer. I went straight into my room and tried to monitor when he was going to leave the house. About forty minutes later, mum saw him off. Not to the car but to a place I did not know. All I saw was that she entered his car and returned later in a taxi.
“When did you come back?” she asked on seeing me in the living room.”
“Just now,” I lied.
“Where are the things I sent you?”
“I could not get them…”
“The money you gave me was not enough for transportation…I tried to convince the drivers but when I saw they were not going to take less amount I decided to come back home, only to meet the door locked. Thanks to my spare keys. You didn’t tell me you were going anywhere.”
“I just saw a friend off,” she said evasively.
Meanwhile, I’d sneaked into her room. I saw the card. The content was clear enough. I also saw a pack of durex with two already used. Mum noticed I was disturbed, but I lied to her.
Dad’s case with the police is now as good as settled. The real culprit was recently nabbed. So he’ll be returning to Nigeria any moment from now. Mum sounds very happy at this development. But what is the guarantee that she’ll stop seeing Mr. Nwanne when dad eventually returns?