No Heart Feelings #6

This post is dedicated to Goodnews and Amelia and Godiya and Chux and Toyinfab… HML! God bless your unions!

Read Previous Episodes HERE

Nandir had an oval face with high cheekbones and a narrow chin. Her doll-like eyes were always accentuated by long eyelashes and thinly plucked eyebrows. A long nose rested above constantly pursed lips and she possessed dark, glowing skin that was almost without blemish. She wasn’t particularly beautiful facially but her appearance drawn out by eye-catching clothes and a relentlessly spilling cleavage always turned heads wherever she went.

Nandir adored the attention. In fact, she thrived on it. She could never be seen out of her house without makeup and some revealing outfit, even under the chilly conditions of Jos weather. There was no such thing as casual appearance with her. But for sad reasons, she had stumbled out of her one-room apartment in nothing but a pair of jeans and a rumpled, shapeless tee which was faded and frayed at the edges, and had hired a taxi all the way to the Yakubu Gowon Airport to pick Jimi. Her hair was in its state of natural mess and the strip of fake eyelashes on her left eye was hanging loose, giving the eye a droopy look. A zit on her chin glistened under parched lips that were void of lipstick or gloss.

It was a rare sighting and Jimi could hardly recognize the mess that waved at him from the backseat of a taxi that was waiting at the parking lot. He lifted his Ray-Ban’s a tad to have a proper look and sure enough it was Nandir, his ex. Dodging a couple of ladies that walked by him, he walked to the taxi.

“Hi,” Nandir said. She spared no smile.

“Hi.” Jimi dug his hands into his pockets to warm himself. The change of weather was getting to him. “Where’s Nanle?” He asked, getting into the taxi hurriedly.

“He asked me to come pick you. His boss won’t let him out of the office.”

“Okay.”

The taxi driver started the car and put it into motion.

“Sorry about your wife,” Nandir uttered, searching Jimi’s face. “You got all my texts and pings?”

“Yeah.”

“I heard she was beautiful…”

Jimi released a tolerant smile.

“Well, God knows best. I’m glad you’re okay.”

To read the concluding story, click–> HERE

I’m still here!

Good morning beautiful people!

I just want to thank you guys for your support and prayers and all the loving and wonderful words you sent my way this past week. Never felt so much love in my life. Thank you and God bless you guys real good. Your prayers must have reached the ears of God because something strange but good happened to me this week. And yes, I wrote. *covering my eyes* couldn’t help myself.

My real hiatus begins next week, sadly, and like I said before, I don’t know how long it will last. Will still need your prayers.

Thank you @LAFamily for your prayers and to everyone who stood by me. God does hear and He has made things smooth already. I will share this testimony in due time, holding nothing back.

So, to the good news. No Heart Feeling comes up in a bit. But before then, check out my new site www.moskedapages.com

Today’s post will be the last post here and it is to commemorate my birthday, which is tomorrow. Yayy! From now on, I’ll be posting from moskedapages.com  If you have subscribed to this blog, please go there and re-subscribe. For those of you on wordpress following me, follow again and I will follow back. I will do my best to send everyone who has commented on this blog emails with details of the new site.

Thanks for being with me all the way. I’ll miss this blog’s stats, though L I have almost a hundred thousand hits here. Now I have to start from the scratch. But it’s all good.

So, watch out for NHF 6. For those of you who love Jimi, you don’t want to miss this!

On Hiatus

Hello guys,

I will be going away for a while to sort out a few things in my life. Very personal. And I will need everyone’s prayers. This blog will be kind of silent around here. Absent will be the regular Immortals’ Code and No Heart Feelings episodes. I don’t know how long i will be gone, though. You may or may not see changes on the site. i have plans to update to http://www.moskedapages.com

But in the meanwhile, please do keep sharing. Leave your comments and tweets and i will get back to you when i return.

By the way, thank you so much for you wonderful words, the ones you leave here, on Facebook and on Twitter. It won’t be fun if you’re not here.

Again, I need your prayers. You all know me. Nothing stops me from writing. If anything does, you know it’s very serious. So talk to Baba God on my behalf.

have a lovely week ahead and God bless you 🙂

No Heart Feelings #5

Previous Episodes

The camera found her in bed, nestled under a fuzzy blanket. Her crazy Rihanna hairdo had never looked crazier. Lips that were still puckered because of the million kisses that met her the night before lay slightly parted. There was a silent purr from her with every heave of her chest and the camera stayed on her that way. It adored her for a very long time until the crow of a cockerel outside a window beside the bed brought her into a stir. Her eyelids fluttered, lips closed and parted again. She went back to sleep. But the cockerel announced the morning once more and this time her eyes opened.

“Wake up, doll-face.”

She blinked and looked at the camera. A sleepy expression still written in her eyes slowly turned to a smile.

“Hey you,” the voice behind the camera came on again.

“Turn it off,” she said.

The camera retreated to a dressing table facing the bed but it remained on.

Jimi walked back to the bed and got under the blanket with Marie. His lips brushed against hers and left a taste of mint and freshness. She responded with a moan.

“We’ve been here ten days, Jimi…” she whispered.

“And you still won’t let me show you how beautiful Jos is.”

“You will but after I’m tired of you.” She left feathery kisses on his neck and bare chest and her hand began to travel down his abs but he stopped her.

“Today, we’ll talk, get to know each other better.”

“I hate talking,” she grumbled and laid her head on his chest.

“Okay, let’s make a deal. For everything you tell me about yourself, I’ll leave a kiss on you.”
Marie nodded enthusiastically. “But first,” she said, “take off those glasses, Jimi. We’ve been at each other like rabbits since we got here. You can’t still be shy around me na.”

Jimi removed the sunglasses he had on and rested his eyes on her lips instead of her eyes.

“Do you like me?”

“If I don’t, I wouldn’t have followed you all the way to Jos with just the clothes on my back. You’re impulsive, you know?”

Jimi chuckled.

“Just after that first kiss and platonic sleepover, you shoved me in your car and drove me all the way here.”

“And yet you sat beside me without complaining or asking, like we were just going to Munchies to get ice cream.”

Marie laughed. “You’re crazy, Olujimi. Who would have thought that under your phobia you’re this wild? But I’m really not complaining. My dad was kind’a impulsive too. He was a drifter, never staying in one place for a long time. We were always on the road.”

“Poor baby.” Jimi kissed her nose, then her lips and her chin. “So I think we should go out today before we catch cabin fever. I want to take you round J-town and let you see the sights.”

“Like tourists?”

“More or less. Another question. Is your brother going to let me marry you?”

Marie who had been drawing circles round Jimi’s Adam’s apple stopped at the question.

“What?”

“Marie…I really like you and you’re cool and maybe it’s because of the way I am with women that’s making me this impulsive but I want you to be my wife. I wouldn’t have touched you if I didn’t have marriage on my mind.”

Marie pushed the blanket aside and sat up. “But we’ve known each other for just ten days, Jimi. Apart from the sex, you don’t know me.”

Jimi also sat up. “It comes with time, Marie. Me, I have nothing to hide. You’ve met my family already. I have a degree in cinematography and that’s because I want to be movie director but my parents think I should go into the family business. Erm… I have few friends and just one ex-girlfriend who left me because I didn’t sleep with her. That got me depressed and drove me into letting a prostitute be my first. I regretted it but I kept going back, just for companionship. What else? Let me see… Yeah, I’m impulsive, as you already know. I don’t think much; I just do.”

He dug his hand into one of the many pockets of the combat shorts he was wearing and pulled out a diamond ring.

“And that’s why I’m asking you to be my wife.”

Jimi paused the recording at that point. He didn’t want to watch Marie’s reply to his proposal. She had broken into an award winning smile and accepted the ring. It was all an act; watching it the eighth time couldn’t make it genuine. He shut his laptop and looked around his bedroom lethargically. It was a mess. He had attempted to do away with all things Marie but had ended up surrounding himself with everything that reminded him of her. He couldn’t quite bring himself to fully exorcise her.

He stared at his phone. There were plans to call Marie’s friends, Udoka and Bunmi. He felt they would know why she did what she did. But he was too afraid to ask them. What if the secrets they revealed were worse than seeing her alive on television?

He put off the calls till later and took a steaming shower, skipped breakfast and dialed Nnenna. She answered immediately; it seemed she had been expecting his call.

“Jimi?”

“Hey, mom.”

“How are you?” The question annoyed him. He knew she was asking how he was coping with Marie’s loss.

“I’m good. Ehm…mom, please could you text me Terdoo’s number?”

“Se ko si iyonu?”

“No, no problem, mom.”

“Okay, I’ll send it.”

“How’s Kiki?”

Nnenna sighed. “Fine.”

“Alright mom….”

“Can you come over, oko mi? We need to talk. Something came up.”

“Okay. I’ll be there.”

He aborted the call and thought about his plans for the day. He had business to handle before he went to Nnenna’s. As he was about putting a call to one of his partners, the doorbell rang. Jimi stiffened and his hand automatically went for the pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses on the bed. He wore them and made unexcited steps to the front door.

The peephole revealed two strange male characters that looked like Jehovah’s Witnesses, thanks to the crossbody bag one of them was carrying. Jimi’s head danced around the idea of letting them in before he unlatched the door and poked his head out.

“Yeah?”

The first of the characters, a man in his fifties, spoke first. “Good morning Mr. Olujimi Bahaushe.”
Jimi was unsettled by the fact that they knew him.

“I am Inspector Okupe from the EFCC and this is my friend, Roy Marks of the ICPO…”

“Interpol,” Roy Marks put in with a small smile. He was younger, had an agreeable face and a tainted accent. He was the one with the bag.

“Please, we would like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind,” Okupe said.

“What about?” Jimi inquired.

“Please, can we go in first? It’s of a sensitive nature.”

Jimi shifted away from the door and let them in. He offered them a sofa to sit and took another opposite them.

“Ehm…” Okupe kicked off. “We heard you lost your wife?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry for your loss.”

Jimi said nothing.

“But ehm…the news we bring to you today is also not a good one.

Jimi crossed his legs and fiddled with a zip on his shorts.

“Mr. Bahaushe, we have reason to believe that your wife, otherwise known as Chimarya Bahaushe is in fact, alive.”

Jimi gave no expression on his face. He was glad his glasses hid the truth his eyes held. Okupe continued when he saw that Jimi had no reaction to his breaking news.

“She did not die…”

“What are you talking about?” Jimi cut him off. “I buried my wife. I saw her corpse.”

“You must have buried someone else. Your wife never died. Olujimi…can I call you that?”
Jimi did not answer.

“What did you know about your wife?”

“What sort of question is that? She was my wife.”

“I’m sorry for all this… but your wife, Chimarya, staged her death. And the only reason for that is because she’s a criminal.”

“That’s quite disrespectful, Mr. Okupe,” Jimi spurted. “I said my wife is dead and she was no criminal.”

“She was,” Roy affirmed and brought out a file from his crossbody bag.

“Chimarya Dauda was her name but we traced her birth records to a general Hospital in Yola and saw that she was named Rachel Ishaya at birth. Ishaya was her mother’s family name. Her father, Sani Dauda, whose real names we are yet to ascertain was a professional scammer in those days…”

Jimi leaned forward and stopped Roy. “I don’t know what this is all about but…” he faded off as his eyes caught the array of photos and documents Roy spread out on the center table. They had everything on Marie—birth certificates with different names, photocopies of several national IDs with diverse aliases, transaction documents of different types of businesses and finally a photocopy of her international passport ID under the name Ariya Imorle and a marriage certificate typed out in Portuguese that had her name changed to Ariya Benicio.

Jimi shut his eyes behind his glasses and inhaled deeply but he couldn’t still himself. He stood up and ambled around a little, letting the news about Marie’s real person sink in. Sadly Okupe gave him no peace as he went into more details. The more he exposed, the more Jimi felt like breaking into a run. It was one thing knowing one’s wife planned her own death to be with another man but it was a different matter entirely realizing his marriage had been a lie. All the memories of their moments together fizzled into nothing before his eyes.

“Olujimi,” Roy said gently, “based on all you heard, you must now know that your wife is on Interpol’s Wanted list. This would have been an EFCC issue alone but since she crossed the borders six months ago, she’s become a person of international interest, especially given that ten million dollars of drug money’s involved.”

Jimi turned sharply. “Ten million dollars?”

“Her second husband, Luiz Benicio, was part of a drug cartel in Rio. I don’t think she even knows that. There was to be an exchange of drugs and money and Luiz was spearheading it but he organized thugs to throw a monkey wrench in the works of the operation, making away with both the dollars and the drugs. No one knew he was behind it. His boss still suspects a rival cartel and people have been murdered on that account. Luiz is a criminal himself but he met his match with Ariya or Marie, as you call her. Yet she was blinded by greed. The moment she crossed the borders, we had her.”

Roy pointed at pictures of Marie in different locations in Europe, her face well hidden behind sunglasses and headscarves. Jimi recognized her only by the mole on her nose.

“Look, I’m really appreciative of you coming here and telling me all this but like I told you, Marie’s dead.”

Okupe looked at Roy in slight surprise.

“You mean we’ve wasted our time with everything we told you?”

“Someone is stealing her identity or something else fishier is going on, sir. But this person in these pictures is not Marie. And please, I’d love you to leave.”

Okupe breathed out. “Very well.”

Roy began to pack up the documents into his bag as Jimi strolled to the door and opened it. Both men walked to him and shook hands, leaving their complimentary cards.

“We have a feeling, she might contact you. If she does, call us.”

“Thank you.”

Jimi shut the door after them, shoved the cards into his pocket and disappeared into his bedroom for almost an hour. When he emerged, he was fully dressed. He was heading to the kitchen for a much desired breakfast but a sound somewhere in the house caught his attention. He followed it to the guest wing which had two bedrooms and a bathroom between them. He stopped when he saw a little boy of mixed race hopping in the corridor. The boy spotted him and ran into one of the bedrooms. Shortly after, Terdoo emerged.

“Good morning Uncle Jimi.” She curtsied. “I just came to get the rest of my things.”

“Can I speak to you in the kitchen? Is that your son?”

Terdoo nodded. Jimi turned around and she followed. In the kitchen, he turned on the water kettle, filled it halfway and turned it on. He kept his face away from hers as he spoke.

“I’m sorry about the other day. I was rude and disrespectful. Please, forgive me.”

“It’s okay, Uncle Jimi. I understand.” Terdoo smiled a little.

“So, I’d like you to stay.”

“I’d like to but I just finished my exams and I’m done with school, so I have no reason being around here anymore.”

“Oh?” Jimi dared to raise his head to stare at her. His eyes found the same introverted face he saw the other night and he averted his eyes immediately. “You’ve been schooling?”

She nodded. “At LASU.”

“Oh. Good for you. Congrats.”

“Thank you.”

“You need a job? I have connections. I can help.”

“Thank you but not yet, at least.”

“But how will you take care of your son?” Jimi’s eyes traveled to the kettle and back to her. Something in her intrigued him. He felt she had more layers than what he saw on the surface.

“I saved up some money. Besides, he stays with my mom. He’s going to Abeokuta tomorrow.”

“Oh, okay. But I’d really like you to stay…for Kiki’s sake. I don’t know how to handle her. And this house…it’s big and needs occupants. You have a room already. I owe you that much.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Terdoo turned around and Jimi’s eyes found her once more. He scolded himself for the momentary distraction her backside offered him.

“Uncle Jimi?” she swiveled round and he faced the kettle. “Remember I told you I could help you find Marie?”

Jimi scowled. Terdoo walked closer.

“I think…she calls me every morning when I’m with Kiki. It started the day after she…died. A call will come in at exactly nine o’clock through a private number and no one will say anything.”
Jimi turned.

“I’ll be saying ‘hello, hello’ and the person won’t speak. Initially, I thought it was a prank call but it kept going on until…” Terdoo breathed in and became embarrassed. “Until I started believing it was Marie’s ghost. I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to believe.”

“This has been going on since she died?”

“Yes.”

“Private number?”

“Yes. But four days ago, the number showed and when I answered the call, the person said ‘shit’ and switched off. Uncle Jimi, I knew it was Marie. I was very scared.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“How can I tell you that type of story? Would you have believed me?”

“So you have this number?”

Terdoo nodded.

“Good.” His face went stony. “Keep it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Marie’s dead.”
Jimi switched off the kettle and walked out of the kitchen angrier than he had got in. He picked his car key and sunglasses from his bedroom and left
the house.

****

“Sesan will you stop playing that guitar let somebody hear something in this house?!” Nnenna shouted in the direction of Sesan’s bedroom where the loud noise of an electric guitar was coming from and filling the entire house. “They’ll soon call off Asuu strike and we can all rest!”

She hissed and looked at Kiki in Jimi’s arms. The one year old was in her usual form, wailing out a tantrum.

“And you, I don’t know what’s your own! You won’t eat anything they give you! What do you want me to do? Will I take out my flat breasts that have no milk to start breastfeeding you, ehn? Kilode!”

Despite the mood in the room, Jimi found himself smiling.

“Mom, relax. Everything will be fine. Nobody’s taking Kiki.”

Nnenna slumped into a single couch and sat with her head in her hands.

“Ah. Alhaja! E never bad like dat na.”
Sesan stepped into the sitting room. The guitar noise had died down considerably. He sat on the armrest of Nnenna’s seat and began massaging her shoulders.

“Relax.”

“Help me tell her o,” Jimi said, bouncing Kiki in his arms. “Marie ni, Marionette kor. Just forget those people jor. Marie’s gone. Those guys are 419, looking for money. And how did you allow them deceive you that this beautiful girl here’s not mine?”

“Jimi, I know what I heard on that phone.” Nnenna wriggled away from Sesan’s hands. “It was Marie. Sexy,” she looked at Sesan, “you heard it na, dear?”

“No, ma. I just heard a hungry woman talking.”
Nnenna pushed her lips into an angry pout and shoved him off her seat.

“Mom, bone those guys. No one will take Kiki.” Jimi intensified his placating as Kiki cried even more.

“Ki lo se omo yi?” Nnenna went into tears.

“Her crying is killing me here!”

“Can you stop this your stressing?” Sesan went back to his massage. He got a smack on his knee and a strong shove but he put his arms round Nnenna, holding her tight.

“But oko mi,” she appealed to Jimi in a calmer tone. “At least, let’s arrange to meet them just to be sure.”

“No.”

“We do not negotiate with terrorists,” Sexy said in Obama’s voice.

“I wonder! Geez, mom! Let it go!” the tone in his voice heightened Kiki’s wailing and she gave it all her lungs could bear.

“Olujimi, please take that child to Terdoo. She alone knows how to calm her, abeg. Thank God her exams are over. These past days have been hell. I’m tired.”

Jimi picked Kiki’s favorite stuffed animal and left the house. He strapped Kiki in her carseat, hoping that the drive home would do the magic but up until the moment his car came to a jerking halt a few houses from his, Kiki was still in her foul mood.
Jimi tried to get the car to start again but he was unsuccessful. He lifted Kiki from her seat and walked all the way home. The moment Terdoo had her in her arms, her crying lowered and she nestled her head on her breasts. She was making sounds that had Terdoo laughing and Jimi staring at them both in amazement.

“She’s reporting you to me,” Terdoo explained.

“She talks?”

Terdoo nodded. “Baby talk. You wouldn’t understand even if you tried.”

“Okay o.”

Jimi looked at Terdoo’s son who was still doing his hopping act around the house. He had the urge to ask Terdoo who his father was but he held back. He took the backdoor to the garage to get a toolbox and found his way back to where his car was parked. There was a long contemplation on what was wrong with the vehicle before he opened the hood. But but Jimi was clueless in these things. After poking this and pulling that, he opted for calling his mechanic. He was unsuccessful, however, as a dead tone hit his ear three times. He sat in the car for a while, taking the time out for himself. The visit from the gentlemen of the law and Nnenna’s revelation had left him even more confounded than before. The Marie he knew couldn’t have done all those things they were claiming and yet, he knew she did them all. It was hard for him to accept the truth about her. He searched in his heart, for a part that hated her but there was none. Absent also was that part that held the warm feelings he once had for her.

He stepped out of the car, locked it and went back home. Terdoo’s son was still in his hop and this time, it was accompanied by excited screams as he reenacted a scene from some movie. Jimi strolled to Kiki’s nursery to check on how she was doing, noticing her cries had gone down. He had come with her stuffed monkey as a peace offering. He stepped in quietly and found Terdoo’s back to him; she was sitting on the chair Marie usually sat to nurse Kiki. For a while he thought he was staring at Marie, until Terdoo turned and exposed herself nursing Kiki. She gasped and sat frozen, humiliation scrawled on her face.

“What are you doing, Terdoo?”

She snapped back into thinking and covered her breast.

“I’m sorry.” The words rolled out fast as she stood with Kiki.

“For how long has this been going on?”
Jimi didn’t hide his face from her. His eyes stabbed hers.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Jimi.”

“Is this why she wouldn’t take anything else? How long has this been going on?”

Terdoo’s voice came out in a low quiver. “Since she turned four months.”

“What are you talking about? Marie was breastfeeding her.”

“She did it only in the mornings and then she’ll tell me to give her formula. I tried it the first day but Kiki refused the formula and cried till she had a temperature, so I decided to breastfeed her myself from then. I’m sorry, Uncle Jimi, I just couldn’t watch her cry like that.”

Jimi didn’t know what to tell her. He didn’t even know what to make of the whole situation as he took his eyes away from her just to ease the embarrassment that refuse to leave her face.

“But your son is all grown. How is… this possible?”

“I don’t know but I can still breastfeed. Unlce Jimi, I’m…”

“It’s okay.”

He left the nursery and into the mess that was his bedroom. There was an instant plan in his head to get away. The day had been too weird and upsetting for him. Terdoo’s latest act was the last straw. He put a call to his travel agent to find if there were any flights that afternoon to Jos and when he confirmed and booked, he packed a small bag and called Sesan to come take him to the airport. Done with that, he met Terdoo in the kitchen and left some money for her. He told her he would be away for a week and also asked if she knew any neighborhood mechanics that could fix his car.

She shook her head. “I don’t know. But what’s wrong with it?” she asked.

“I have no idea.” He wondered why she asked. He suspected she was finding a way to ease the tension between them brought about by the breastfeeding incidence. “Sesan will get a mechanic tomorrow.”

He left the kitchen and waited for Sesan in the sitting room.

****

The noonday sun burned Marie’s forehead with a passion. She felt a migraine coming up as she rubbed her temples and reluctantly accepted the hug Toshiba gave her from behind. His strong cologne choked her and sent a bad signal to her head. He left kisses on her neck and was going for her lips but she pushed him away. She ignored the disappointment in his eyes and stepped into the taxi that had just pulled up beside them. Down the street of their uninhabited estate, she saw Ato also giving Udoka a goodbye kiss that involved his tongue down her throat. Marie smiled sadly and waved at them, not knowing when they would see each other again. Udoka had gotten information that the Interpol were after them. They all had to slide, and to different locations but nowhere outside Nigeria or they could be caught easily. Domestic airports as well, were out of bounds and so were all mobile interactions.

“So where are you going?” Toshiba asked as Marie’s cab fired up.

“You know I can’t tell you.”

That was the rule. They were not to reveal their locations to each other.

“I love you,” Toshiba said and Marie delivered him a bland stare. She tapped the driver and the cab drove away. She turned back and looked past Toshiba’s hunched frame to Ato who was now standing alone. Her eyes misted over and she rubbed them before settling back into her seat.

“Bros,” she called the driver. “You know which park go still dey load motor to Jos?”

The driver nodded.

“Carry me there.”

A sort of peace filled her. The Bahaushes’ home hidden in Rayfield, Jos was a perfect place to lay low. But she wasn’t so sure she would enjoy her time there. The ghosts of the seven months spent with Jimi were sure to haunt her.

©Sally @moskedapages

Translations:
Se ko si iyonu? (Yoruba)- Hope there is no problem?
Ki lo se omo yi? (Yoruba) – What is wrong with this child?

No Heart Feelings #4

Previous Episodes

“Very well,” Toshiba’s throaty voice rolled out in strong notes to Alhaja Nnenna over the phone.

“Prepare another funeral for your son’s real baby whom Marie is carrying as we speak! And this time, Marie will go for real! Have a nice evening!”
Toshiba put an end to his phone call with a satisfied look on his face but his eyes strayed to Marie and he saw her restless expression as she rubbed her cheeks to do away with tears she had just shed.

“What is the problem now?” he asked, passing Udoka her phone. “You should be happy that we’re going to get Kiki. We’ll give them till the end of tomorrow to talk about it and probably plan a DNA test just to confirm what we just told them…”

“And then what?” Marie asked irritably. Toshiba wasn’t sure of what to make of the question.

“You didn’t have a plan before you thought of getting her?”

“No,” Marie said honestly. Toshiba was surprised.

Marie was not known to jump into anything without thorough planning. Udoka often joked that she planned even her breathing.

“Well, I just helped you out with that last part, the whole baby thing… It came to me on the spur.”

“Then what?” Marie repeated.

“Then we call Alhaja again and arrange an exchange. You for Kiki. Of course, I will remain in the shadows throughout all of this. Kiki comes to me and you go to them but you leave before the sun comes up the next morning. In-between, you act like you’ve been drugged shitless and cannot remember a thing…”

“It’s all tiring, really.” Marie rubbed her eyes and stood from her chair. “I need to go to bed. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

Toshiba was annoyed at her dismissive behavior but he chose not to react as he left the sitting room for fresh air outside. Ato followed Marie. He walked into a bedroom that had a mattress on the floor and a lone pillow. He stood by the door. Marie’s and Udoka’s handbags also lay on the floor beside a pair of neatly folded clothes and a pack of sanitary towels. Ato listened to the sound of running water in the bathroom as he picked at his nails. Shortly after, Marie emerged from the bathroom dressed in only her underwear as she shook wet hands to dry them. There were tears running down her eyes that amused Ato Marie was an unusual type. She was so detached from her emotions that she never had moments when she stopped to cry. If ever she was pushed to tears, she would continue whatever she was doing while the tears flowed.

She sniffed. “Looks like I’m subjected to wearing pads for a while now. I just hope the bleeding doesn’t last as long as the one I had after Kiki. That felt like forever.” She wiped her nose and walked to the window.

“What’s happening, Chi-chi?” Ato asked. Marie glanced at him before she went back to the window. She could see Toshiba standing by a fence that separated the house from the next. He was on his phone.

“Kiki is Jimi’s,” she said to Ato. “Toshiba and I didn’t have sex but he thought we did. It was my wedding eve and he was in a mess, totally drunk. My seventh-month absence with Jimi in Jos almost drove him insane and then the news of the wedding pushed him off the edge. I went to see him in a hotel room that night. He wanted sex and I reluctantly agreed; it was not in my plans. So we got kissing and then he just dozed off. The next morning, he texted me, asking if we did anything and I said we did.”

“You didn’t answer my question, Chi. What’s eating you?”

Marie turned around. “Ba ko mi. I’m good.”

“You’re lying.” Ato took a step closer. His tone went up from nowhere. “You walked into the Bahaushes’, spent almost three years with them, had a child and came out with nothing! Then you just decided, on a whim, to expose yourself to them, letting them know you’re alive and as a result, risking everything you’ve worked hard for! Even risking getting all of us exposed! I told you not to leave Jimi if you loved him! I told you to stay for Kiki’s sake but you didn’t listen and now you cannot think straight!”

“I lost my baby!” Marie cried, squeezing the bulge that was now devoid of her pregnancy. “How can I think straight?! I feel empty! I keep waiting for him to do his normal pedaling around but…nothing! He’s gone, Ato! And he’s not coming back and you want me to let Kiki go the same way?!”

“Yes!”

“Why?!”

“Because you chose this path! You gave up your daughter! Deal with it and leave the Bahaushes alone!”

“Get out!” Marie pointed at the door.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” Ato asked. “You still allow him mess with your mind even at the age of thirty-one, Chimarya? That man is dead! He has no power over you! Let him go!”

“GET OUT!”

Ato flung open the door and walked out, slamming it behind him.

Marie felt the pulsing weight of more tears but she refused to let them consume her. Everything Ato had told her was the truth. She was out of her element. The Marie she knew always laid out elaborate arrangements for every step and then she would have alternative plans in case of obstacles along the way. But first, she would never venture into anything without an escape button. How she had gotten so impulsive to call Alhaja to ask for Kiki was beyond her. It seemed some other force within waged war against her commonsense. She felt cornered by strange emotions and incorrect thinking and she needed to be set straight.

Marie dug a forefinger and thumb into the thick, rich curls of her Bohemian weave in a scratching manner and pulled out a mini SIM card. She inserted it into a phone lying on the mattress and turned it on. The moment it was alive, a text came in and she opened it.

Got the cash. You make me proud. Now, disappear.

The text was responsible for a smile that flashed in her features and disappeared before it fully creased her lips. She proceeded to dial a number and waited restlessly as it connected.

“Hello?” she whispered.

“Marie?” a man’s voice came on. “How are you?”

Marie squeezed her lips real tight but they trembled and forced her into tears.

“I’m not good, Baba. I’m not good. I think I’m having a breakdown.” She sniffed and heaved. “I should have listened to you. I should have. I should…”

“Calm down, Chimarya. Calm down, child.”

“No Baba, I want to come to you. I can’t take this again. Please, lemme come to you…”

He didn’t reply immediately but she could hear him breathing in the background. It sounded more like a snore wrought by nasal obstruction.

“Baba…?”

“No, Chimarya. You can’t come yet. I’m sorry.”
Marie felt a stab in her chest as she fell to the mattress. It would have been as well if he had wielded a knife with his own hand and stabbed her. His words were disconnected, unfeeling, icy. How could he do this to her continuously for twenty years? Who abandoned their daughter for that long?

“Baba, why can’t we follow you this time?” Little Marie faced her father as he prepared breakfast on an ‘Abacha Stove’, a crudely made cooking stove that was fueled by sawdust. Baba didn’t know how to use it and the result was a smoky room and burnt eggs. He laid the mess on a plate before Marie and pointed at a loaf of bread beside her. But she wasn’t interested. She lay on a flat mattress on the floor of the large but mold-infested room that had been their abode for two weeks, and buried her head in her arms. Baba knew she wasn’t crying because he had taught her better. He suspected she was praying to God not to let him go away.

“Marie,” he tapped her. “Wake your brother and two of you should come and have breakfast.”

Marie rose up reluctantly and crawled to the other end of the mattress where Ato was sleeping and gave him a hard slap on his back. He shot up and bent backwards, scratching the assaulted spot with both hands. Marie crawled back to her original spot and waited for Baba who had disappeared with the stove and returned with two cups of hot chocolate that caused her mouth to water. Still, she kept her face passive and would not have her breakfast. Ato had rolled back to bed and gone into a snore with his face turned up to the ceiling.

“I don’t want you to go,” Marie said to her father.

He was taking off his trousers to change into a black kaftan that hung on an old metal chair in a corner of the room. Everything else in the room was as old as the chair, from the leaking ceiling to peeling walls, to a floor void of covering and full of holes. Marie hated the place. It did not belong to them. Not that they had any home they could call theirs since they drifted from one place to another every now and then. The only thing that could keep them in an environment long enough to make acquaintances was their education but once each academic term was over, they were off to another city. Sometimes they lived in the beautiful homes Baba told them was theirs. Other times, they were lucky enough to get a space like the one they were presently in.

Baba didn’t hide his trade from Marie and Ato. In fact, he sometimes employed them in small, quick and easy scams. But it was Marie he wanted to take over from him. She had brains and irresistible charm, plus a talent for acting. She could cry at will and fall ill by raising her temperature using a trick taught by Baba. He was a professional con artist and had been in the trade long before it was discovered nationwide. In those days, there were many hapless Nigerians and foreigners to scam and Baba enjoyed the thrill of it, travelling in and out of the country to accomplish his misdeeds. But he was a good father as far as the word could be stretched. To Marie, he was heaven and she was his little princess. She idolized him with intense passion and believed everything he told her, even when she knew he wasn’t being honest. She took his lessons to heart, unlike Ato, who would learn and unlearn just for the fun of it. Baba taught them both many things but the one thing he made part of them was the ability to control their emotions no matter how pushed they were to explode. He often poked at their feelings to see how they would react. Ato would cave in but Marie would stay strong no matter the assault, even though she sought some place later on to cry.

Hence, he bet his money on her and made sure he embedded his own life and ways into her DNA. He was certain that as long as she stayed connected to him, one way or another, she would not stray from what he taught her.

“Can I follow you? I want to go with you.” Marie was now picking at the burnt egg while Ato stirred on the bed, still in his sleep.

“Chimarya…” Baba sighed as he combed his hair.

“Dogo will come and take you children to Sokoto…”

Marie pushed the plate away and crossed her arms. “I don’t like Uncle Dogo! He likes to look at me when I’m bathing.”

Baba squeezed his brows. That piece of information was not good. As much as Marie was knowledgeable in a lot of adult things and had just begun her period, she was still a child and no one was going to molest her. He frowned. That meant he had to change his plans and find someone else for the meantime. Thus Dogo was off the list. Baba marked him as someone he would never do business with. Rapists, child molesters and thieves were people Baba detested. He considered his profession more honorable, often telling Marie.

“You can’t cheat who doesn’t want to be cheated.”

“So I can follow you? Me and Ato?” Marie had risen to a kneeling position on the mattress, hope filling her small, bright eyes.

“Come here.” Baba stretched out his hands and she walked to him. He held her in an embrace and if she had seen his face then, she would have seen the tears in his eyes.

“Uncle John would come for you, then.”

“I don’t want you to go, daddy.”

She hardly called him that. Anytime she did, it meant her heart was on edge. Baba couldn’t understand the child’s insistence. It was as though she sensed he was going to be away for a long time. But he was coming back and he promised her that.

“No,” she sniffed. The tears came. “You won’t come back.”

“I will,” he promised earnestly but Marie had broken. Her tears finally got Ato up. He was very protective of her. He adjusted his position to look at father and daughter properly before he hissed discretely and turned away. He hated Baba. He alone remembered how the man had treated their mother. He swore never to forgive or forget.

“Ato, ka tashi. Get up and eat.”

Ato grumbled and rose up but it wasn’t for breakfast. He walked outside to use the bathroom. Baba released Marie and lowered his tall frame to meet hers. He saw the fear in her eyes; she thought he was going to scold her for crying. But instead he wiped her tears.

“I’ll stay long but I’ll come back soon. Everything I have taught you, always remember, okay? Don’t trust anybody, wear your heart on your sleeve and…?”

“Always plan.”

“Good girl.” He stroked her cheek and rose up.

“Come, let’s eat and…”

The door burst open and Ato ran in.

“Baba, I saw police!” he said in panic. “They’re coming! They’re asking that kose woman for one tall man with two children!”

Marie looked at Baba and she saw in his eyes that he was calm. It was as if he was expecting the police. She held him tight with both hands.

“Baba!” Ato howled, “let’s go! Now!”

“Come here, Ato.”

“No! Let’s go!”

They had run from the law a few times. In a couple of cases, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Ato was used to the drill and was always the fastest to make it to the door. But in recent times, they hadn’t come across the cops because Baba had found new connections in the business and was now liaising with men that had the power and means to support him. It was the men who informed him of his impending arrest. They also assured him that he was going to get out of any trouble he found himself. All he needed do was surrender to the law.

“Come,” Baba called Ato for the third time and the fourteen year old walked to him. Baba rested a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t let anything happen to your sister. If you find yourself anywhere and things are too bad for you, leave that place and call that number I gave you.”

“You want to allow the police to catch you?” Ato was confused. The man before him was not acting like the father he knew.

An angry bang hit the door.

“They’ve come,” Marie whispered and held Baba tighter.

“Sani Dauda! It’s the police! Open the door or we’ll break it!”

But Baba really had no option. They broke in and advanced towards him.

“I’ll come back,” he said to Marie as he was carted away like the criminal he was. Marie watched from where she stood until the men disappeared.

“Don’t cry.” She looked at Ato. “He’ll come back.”
She nodded in absolute faith.

But Baba never came back. Twenty years went by and he was still gone. During the time, Ato and Marie lived their lives in the cover of the same umbrella Baba did. They worked with professional scammers, trained under them and made a living by scamming people around the country.
In times when things got hairy and they sought an escape, Ato would try the phone number given to him but he would always meet a dead tone. It drove him into more hatred for Baba and gave him solid reason to walk the same path, only to prove he was better. To him, Baba was weak and a big hoax. But Marie held on strong. As she became a woman, her charm and intelligence began to mark her out as someone to watch out for. Her driving force was the remorseless desire to see Baba again. She was told he was dead, told to forget about him; not even the police trusted he was alive but she held on to her devotion. Her heart had space for only him. He was her strength and also her Achilles’ heel.

Her devotion paid off when on her birthday in 2006 she got a parcel. From the writing she knew it was Baba. She opened the parcel and all she saw was a SIM card and a phone number scribbled on a piece of paper. She dialed the number and got Baba on the phone.

He sounded old, tired, sick but his voice carried some bitterness in it. She didn’t recognize the man speaking to her. He told her the men that asked him to surrender to the law abandoned him. He told of how he was left for dead had it not been for God. He was out of jail but was in hiding and needed her help to get him back into the real world. He needed a certain amount of cash and he knew she alone could get it for him.

The money was to come in batches from different sources, one long con after another. Marie had no objections. She would do anything he asked. Through the course of two years, she worked with some of the more notorious fraud handlers in the country, men whose names were on the Interpol Most Wanted list. But Marie did not care, even against Ato’s objections. She had protection. The law could not touch her. She became respected with each completed job and earned her stripes by her ruthless and unsympathetic manner. Where men could not venture, she walked in fearlessly and succeeded. She was untouchable.

But there was one last scam.

After this, Baba assured, they would meet again and live clean lives.

She was given a name…

Bahaushe.

The family dealt in diamonds. The scam was simple: to use Alhaja Nnenna’s shop as a front to sell diamonds to a certain mark for millions much more than the real worth. But the job had come with a double face, the other side being a diamond heist after the initial work was completed. Marie was to give a drop on where Alhaja Nnenna kept her most expensive diamonds to a certain group of guys who were going to rob them.

Marie was not comfortable with the arrangement.
Wasn’t it her father who always held that thieves were the lowest scum of the earth? Had jail changed him so much? Baba explained that he had no choice; he was forced into it as from the powers that were. Marie was his only hope. And with much cajoling, he had her agreeing to the take the job.

Marie walked into the lives of the Bahaushes, unsure about herself, which was new for her. But it got worse when she discovered she was falling for the maternal charisma of Nnenna. Though she couldn’t see her face, she felt connected to the woman in a gripping manner. There was comfort each time she sat with her; wisdom in her company. Marie had a strong urge time and again to reveal her secrets to her but she held her heart against all compulsion, until Jimi got thrown into the mix without prior warning.

That day, as his eyes held hers, she was arrested by something she couldn’t understand. Udoka would laugh about it later and tell her someone somewhere was either praying well for her or cooking up some strong jazz to destroy her business prowess. Whichever it was, Marie didn’t take well to it and yet, oddly, she couldn’t stop herself from accepting Nnenna’s deal. It was something she didn’t discuss with anyone. She made the choice all on her own and kept mum about it. Weeks later, she got invited by Jimi to a getaway in Jos where they stayed for seven months and kept off radar. For the first time in Marie’s entire life, she rebelled against Baba without even a single thought.

Baba was enraged. She had embarrassed him and cost him a lot. Furthermore she was going to hurt herself too by allowing her feelings come before every other thing in her life. Marie apologized but she was settled on her actions. Nothing could sway her heart from Jimi. So Baba let her be for a while and it seemed she had been free from him but he came back strong again after the birth of Kiki. One last job, he begged. He was desperate, he was sick, his life was in danger if he didn’t pay up the money they wanted from him. They were also threatening to expose Marie.

She was torn. She couldn’t betray Baba but she couldn’t let Jimi know who she really was. It was better for her to leave, to go away. She didn’t want to stay and hurt him, not with Baba as a permanent fixture in her life.

Ergo, she agreed to Baba’s wish and he sent a name. Luiz Benicio. The rogue son of an oil magnate in Brazil. He possessed stolen money that he didn’t want traced back to him. It was Marie’s job to show him the way.

But first, she had to do die…

©Sally @moskedapages

Translations:
Ba ko mi (Hausa): Nothing
ka tashi (Hausa): get up
Kose (Hausa): Akara, bean cake

This is one long episode guys. I had to break it here. Will continue on Saturday. Happy Independence.