The picture dropped. With a shaky hand, Greg picked it up and hurried out of the house.
The rain had stopped.
He took a cab straight home. He suddenly felt like painting. He could not think.
Greg had never been a violent person towards ” the breathing” . Not even once in his life had he raised his hand to inflict pain on a human being. The few times times he had been angry, all he did was punch walls or solid objects near him. He was shocked at his reaction at Fred’s and most especially at Helen’s.
Close friends often said Greg’s height and stature was intimidating at six inches plus yet people loved being around him.
” It is the warmth you exude man, and it’s all in your eyes and their colour, the way you talk, listen, style your lustrous, jet black hair and even in your gait”. Ofondu aka Xigarate or Xiga had one day told him casually over a glass of wine. He had actually flicked his fingers in Greg’s face as he counted mentally.
Greg had stared at him and even blushed a little . To say that he was only surprised by what Xiga said would be saying half-truth. He was embarrassed. I thought such words come from a woman to a man she likes or from a sister to a brother she is fond of. Greg wondered.
Yes, the colour of Greg’s eyes were unique – grey. But instead of exude warmth, he felt they exuded fear and discomfort. To him, they were too piercing; for each time he looked closely at himself in any mirror, he felt like he was boring holes into it and it would shatter at his feet any moment. But that is one of the reasons why Xiga was secretly, one of his closest friends. He was honest, blunt, realistic to a fault, funny though highly unpredictable.
Xiga could brag about beating a group of thugs one minute and the next you’ll see him hiding behind Greg or any of the guys for protection if he so much as sees someone bearing a slight resemblance to any of the thugs he claimed to have beaten. But he also had a way of making big issues look small by simply giving his ‘Xiga advices’ as he often put it.
Greg wasn’t surprised he was the first person that crossed his mind at this ‘hyper biizarre’ point in his life. But down, deep insid, he wondered whether he would take all Ofondu’s ‘Xiga advices’. He had never known any one who took to the letter every advice Xiga gave. Heck, he doubted even Xiga did.
On his way home that morning, Greg made a mental note to disclose only half of what happened earlier to Anne. But when, how did I come to be so dependent on friends? Since Helen disappeared. Sweet, Holy Spirit!. He could not cogitate. But he needed to hear what Xiga had to say first.
He knew with every fiber in him that after all that happened a while ago, his life would never remain the same. Never! Not with Helen back after fifteen years and with a photo of triplets who were a carbon copy of him.
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“…haven’t you done enough Adolphus? what exactly is your plan? why consent to their union and then change your mind? Is Secivir a kid? ehn? Is she not old enough? Please let them be Adol, please. Have I not begged you to transfer whatever aggression on me and leave my children alone.. Did I not… Mrs. Begha pleaded.
He slapped her. But that did not stop her from talking. Her stubbornness was one thing he loved and hated about her. And the way she went right on talking as if he hadn’t hit her was another. It wounded his manliness. It irritated him to hell and back.
“…Your older children practically fled from home because of you…till now not a word from them…don’t make this one do same, ehn, Biko nunu. Hasn’t she done all you want, ehn? you don’t have properties in that country so why take us there?…ehn biko nunu. Or is that where the headquarters of your club is located…?”. She went on. Another slap. This time she stopped talking but did not cry.
” I have told you to stop begging me in your stupid dialect, you will not… ” Adolphus thundered.
” But you knew I was Igbo before you married me, ehn?” Mrs. Begha interrupted. ” Adol, you used to want me to teach you even, you used to love me and my family despite all that happened. What changed after our marriage ? I keep asking, AdoIplus, where did Mr.Frimpong take you to the night Aondofa died, where…? “
He hit her again and again till she lost consciousness. He had warned her never to bring up that past.
The young lady watched quietly behind the curtain. It was not the first time this was happening.
Silently, she left the house.
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Twice, she narrated the scene to Greg but he still did not see the point in eloping with her. Her dad had promised to bless their union as soon as she finished her final exam and he was not about to ruin that. He had also said something about showing Helen his properties abroad right after the wedding but as far as Greg was concerned that was not happening. Who in the world let’s his bride out of his sight after his wedding? Mr.Begha was as mysterious as he was funny alright but that did not mean he was stupid. I have to be very careful. He was fond of Helen. Greg mused. He drew Helen closer to him and tried to make her see reasons.
” All you saw must have made you hear wrong. I promise we will elope if he so much as gives us the slightest indication that he’s changed his mind, okay? ” He assured.
” Okay.” Helen smiled. She loved the way he calmed her. She loved his gentle spirit and nature even though she did not get him sometimes. He was the way God brought her way. She felt blessed. She loved him with a fever and he loved her right back and that was all that mattered. She wanted to tell him all she heard her mother say about her older siblings but changed her mind. Later.
Once more, she tried to kiss him but he withdrew. Abstinence was what he promised his Creator and Mr. Begha who nearly made him take an oath never to touch his daughter till they got married. Very strange, but fathers could be over protective of their daughters. It was becoming difficult but he could wait a few months. No one else would do. He loved her to the ends of the world. He would wait even forever for her. She was his soul mate and sooner, all would be well.
All was not well; for a few weeks later, even though Mr. Begha reassured them in the positive, the two lovers knew one another. Although they felt guilty about it, they kept it a secret. They would be married soonest.
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It was a day of joy for Her. She had written her final exam and it was a wonder she was able to concentrate. She knew Greg was out of town but couldn’t wait to tell him she was with child. Before her doctor confirmed it, she had suspected a week earlier when at dinner, she couldn’t eat the fried shrimps and crayfish in her soup. She couldn’t wait to be Mrs. Helen Begha Oreoluwa. She thought of sneaking out of the house later to meet Greg but was afraid she’d ruin their plans if her dad caught her.
Lately, her dad had been having meetings upon meetings home and abroad. Some times she wondered just how rich and famous he was. I’ll monitor his movement and sneak out. She concluded. But there was no need for that. Only her mum and younger brother were at home. She decided to stay put at home and wait for Greg’s call.
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The D-day came. It was a dream come true. It was very private so not many were in attendance but the young couple cared less. Helen was elated. They were both happy. After they exchanged vows, her father left like a soldier going to war. He spoke to no one. Some people greeted him but he did not respond. He just marched on like ‘person wey dem de call hin head for village’ – as most Nigerians would put it. But simply put, like someone who was being summoned by the underworld. Mrs. Begha looked helplessly at her daughter then quietly followed her husband.
The couple were not done taking pictures when someone gave Greg his phone.
” We can’t find Guwasen! tell Sercivir to get here quick. Son, you can help us by checking the tennis courts around, you know that’s his first love” . It was Mr. Begha and he sounded very worried. Greg felt his inner pocket for his car key, held his bride by the waist and strolled out, making people around feel like he needed to steal a passionate kiss or two from his wife.
He did but before telling her what was up. She was shocked. She had an idea or two of where her brother could be.
” But he was present a while back, in the front row, wasn’t he? Helen asked Greg incredulously.
” I think so but that’s not the case now. Look, your dad asked me to check the tennis courts around so it’s better you take the car and I…” Greg was suggesting.
” No way. We are going together. There is no way I’m leaving your side and even you can’t make…” She interrupted. Greg kissed her again and made her see reason. She tried to protest but knew he had a point. They would save time if they searched different places at once. She got that. But his other reason about her dad calling him ‘son’ and the singular word making him really feel like one did not move her and she did not know why. She made Greg drive her home after all. But the moment she stepped in and Greg drove out of the compound on the wild goose chase to find her brother, she knew she would never see him again.
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Her mother was sprawled on the floor but not unconscious. There were papers on the dinning table and a cup beside them. Her dad pointed to the cup. But again, she shook her head and refused to drink. And the beating started. He kicked her stomach and Helen screamed and sat up.
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” Mom!” Meyanna screamed as she raced up the stairs. Helen was terrified. She felt her face. How long have I been on this bed? What do I call this state I find myself in whenever my past comes calling? A state I can’t seem to shake off. Dreaming? Surely I wasn’t dreaming. I was aware of my surrounding. But when will this terrible past stop haunting me, God, when? She cried. When she heard Meyanna coming up the stairs, she hurriedly spat into the hem of her skirt and with it, cleaned the blood on her face. Then, she saw the note.
One word – Hel , was all Greg wrote. But she understood. Quickly, she reached for her pillow but could not find it. She had started to shake. Like a deranged someone, she began to search frantically for it. Where the hell are you? I need you now dammit! She nearly screamed.
…to be continued in episode 4
As written by Kimberly Afolayanka