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    It just beat my imagination to the extent at which people will go just to have babies. Some couples will be soo desperate for kids that they are willing to do the unthinkable (including sleeping with other people).

    One thing will all need to know is that it is not only by giving birth to a child that can make one a parents…. adoption can do likewise. Plus, it is not everybody that is meant to give birth.

    Each time I hear of a thing as what Matthew did, it makes me feel like skinning such men alive.

    May any man or woman that has molested any innocent child no know peace in his or her miserable life.!!!!!!!!!

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    To the women and mothers out there listen to this. Once the girl is approaching puberty, note that she can entice a man sexually so if you notice that your husband or whoever that lives with is getting closer to your girl child unlike before… watch out.

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    I’m very sorry for what you had to go through Laibe and I pray you survive so that your shameless uncle can be brought to justice for his elicit behavior.

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    Pardon me coolvallers for my outburst. I get agitated when I hear of child molestation or child abuse.

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    Episode 31
    Josh turned away from his laptop to quickly attend to the call. Seeing the caller’s ID, he knew there would be nothing faster than a fire lit into dry harmattan grasses. The ruin is better imagined than experienced.
    “Doctor Maximilian.” He seemed to be the only one that calls Max fully and it can be annoying at times like this.
    Max shifted a bit away from the noisy streets, at the Ojogobi road roundabout, to a place where he would hear the commissioner clearer. At this point, he wished he had taken Jane’s car… or anybody’s car for that matter.
    “Honourable Commissioner Sir, no one seems to be able to reach your friend since he left here this morning.”
    “Left here? Left where? He is not in Lokoja, is he?”
    Max could feel sincere confusion in the older man’s voice and he took a deep breath.
    “I’m in Ankpa at the moment. Dr Nonso was able to give me good details of his family and I even met his wife without knowing she was the one. The psychotherapist here said your friend left off on hearing the little girl is pregnant. His number has been unreachable up until now.”
    “Jesus!” Josh exclaimed so much so that it startled Max.
    “Psychotherapist? Pregnant? Has it gotten to this? Oh no!” Josh lamented all at once.
    Max blinked his eyes. He thought the Honourable would give him vital information as to where Matthew had disappeared to. He is not ready for this pity-party right now.
    “I’lltalk to you later, sir.” He hung up without waiting for response as he flagged down a bike man.
    “Kingdom… kingdom ministries…” He sounded unsure.
    “Kingdom Destiny Ministries?” The bike man helped him out.
    “Ehen! Do you know the place?”
    He jumped on the back of the motorcycle before the bike man could finish nodding to his question. He didn’t even bother to bargain as he asked the bike man to move at the highest possible speed too.
    The church will forever be the safest place.
    Omachoko killed the break in front of Laibe’s aunt’s compound.
    “Is this the place?”
    He turned to respond. “Yes, Oga Jude.”
    He came back into the country less than a week ago. Inasmuch as Laibe was the first person he wanted his eyes to meet, he couldn’t come straight to Ankpa without giving due reports to those who sent him. First, he had to stop over at the federal ministry of Agriculture in Abuja. He learnt that Hon. Josh had talked to the minister about the agricultural involvement venture the state is undertaking and the latter had bought into the idea. Therefore, Omachoko had to see him and give various reports, aside that they all would be meeting soonest to plan how these new agricultural schemes that is already boosting the economy of Kogi state in hundred folds can go round the entire Nigeria.
    Lokoja was the next place to give his reports; though he had mailed them earlier, Hon Josh maintained that he presented some slideshows to him, in the presence of many of his directors and key people in the agricultural sector of the state. He did all those in three days and the next opportunity he got, he practically flew into Ankpa as soon as possible. That was an exaggeration though.
    “Is she coming out to meet you?”
    “Uhm?” Omachoko turned confused eyes at his boss
    “The girl, is she coming out to meet you here?” Oga Jude repeated himself.
    Omachoko felt the impulse to laugh but he maintained a straight face. Whether Oga Jude didn’t hear the part he said earlier that he hadn’t any means of contacting her… or not, baffled him.
    “The house looks empty.” Omachoko carried glaring worries in his eyes as he said this. It was at this point that Oga Jude could only wonder if the young man was drunk.
    “You are sitting in the car outside the gate of a heavily fenced compound, yet you can tell whether people are in there or not?” Oga Jude wasn’t asking a question. He just was being sarcastic. “Too much of planting and processing beans sha. Goodluck to you!” He said this with a deeper Igbo accent than the one he normally had. He pushed the car door open and got down.
    Omachoko quickly opened his door, got down and hurried after Oga Jude who had gotten to the gate already.
    Only God knows why Oga Jude insisted on following Omachoko all the way here. Aside that he said Omachoko has been away for such a long time, a proud way of saying he missed him, he asked they go check out a plot of land he is trying to buy over. Omachoko didn’t complain as he also needed some sight-seeing in this beloved town.
    “So are we not going to give kolanut out soon?” He had interrupted the cool music blaring out of the DVD player of the car on their way to the land, about an hour ago.
    Omachoko immediately lowered the music, he knew where conversations like this led to… not as though this is the first time, neither is it the second. Oga Jude believes a man settles down once he is married, more so, bearing the fact in mind that he has become responsible for his responsibilities now. Omachoko on the other hand believes a man should be settled before talking marriage. He knows marriage isn’t supposed to ‘complete’ one, instead it should ‘compliment’. So that even though he plans to marry Laibe as soon as he settles down, he wouldn’t rush her into anything.
    “You haven’t even seen her yet Choko, stop deceiving yourself.” He cautioned himself, waiting as the gateman was taking forever to open the gate.
    Omachoko smiled immediately the gateman stepped out and stood, covering the walkway through the gate. He had expected the man to recall his face and probably say some familiar words that would ease him the stress of introducing himself one more time.
    Nothing of such.
    In fact, the gateman stood aloof, staring back at them like he could barely see them. He looked drunk to Omachoko, or was it sleep?
    “Where are the owners of the house?” Oga Jude asked, sounding extremely impatient.
    The gateman shot him an annoyed look and the both of them wondered why.
    “Na me be this!”
    Omachoko felt like pushing his staggering soul off the gate and going headlong into the house, but no. He must tread with caution.
    “Sir, you remember me?” Omachoko points his first finger towards his chest and the man looked on absent-mindedly. “Please can I see Laibe, it’s important.” He was literally sounding like a beggar now, and Oga Jude looked confused amidst it all.
    “She no de. She never de for long now. Madam and oga sef comot, na me wey own house now, na me stand here so.” He mumbled in Pidgin English.
    Oga Jude shook his head from side to side in gross disappointment. How can a watchman be drunk? Apparently because none of his lords are around. He started walking to the car when his phone buzzed and started ringing.
    “Hello!” He mouthed into the speaker, walking farther away.
    Omachoko stared at the gateman with pleading eyes. He had this feeling that nobody was inside the house, he was so convinced that he didn’t wanna push the gateman further to the point of giving him money this time.
    “Thank you Baba.” He said to the elderly man and walked back into his car.
    Oga Jude joined him almost immediately.
    “You know, if I didn’t tell her to go to the office with that inhaler this morning, it wouldn’t have pained me, right?” Oga Jude lamented.
    Omachoko was confused, but didn’t bother. He knew his boss very well; he never leaves any stone unturned in storytelling.
    “Helen’s mother o…” and as though he remembered something, “…sorry, my wife. I forgot you never visited my house. How unfortunate. So, someone like you, with the way we have come thus far, you can’t even see any of my kids on the way and choose to help them? How would you anyway, when you haven’t even met them before.”
    Omachoko smiled. There are various lines of discussion he doesn’t like towing with his boss and this is number two.
    Inasmuch as they are closer than just being employer and employee, Omachoko believes that some things would spoil official rapport between people. One of those things would be meddling so much with the family members of your boss. Don’t get him wrong, he asks after them most of the time, he is very familiar with his boss’ wife. They call each other ‘my personal person’ and that familiarity arose because of one thing; she comes to the shop.
    Oga Jude is the only Igbo man selling at Ejeh road in Ankpa that exempts his children completely from coming to his shop. His reason is very simple; he wanted to proceed more than the secondary school certificate he got but after he was sent to his uncle to learn the arts of money making, he had refused to further on realising that education is not the only determinant factor for making money at all. He however wants his child… he told Omachoko he had only one daughter, to get to the peak of her academics, after which he wouldn’t mind setting up any kind of business she wants for her.
    “So where are we going now?” Omachoko asked in confusion.
    “To my house, of course. Women. Women, separating them from trouble are the hardest thing I have come to find.” He complained bitterly all over again.
    Omachoko smiled at his boss. He would complain over what he will yet eventually do.
    “Your house?”
    “Yes, my house! Don’t worry, it’s not as though I am really your boss anymore, it’s just courtesy. You should be the boss now anyway. I haven’t had round table meetings with one-third of people you have been privileged to sit and talk with.”
    Omachoko didn’t even know how to answer this now, but he knew one thing for sure – his loyalty for this man that dusted him from the mud would never waver in the very least, no matter the heights he get to.
    “I wanted to say, thankfully I will get to meet your daughter today, then I remembered today is school. At least I would meet Mummy Helen, it’s really been a long time, you know!”
    “You can say that again. Now, move as fast as you can. She sounded like she needed it urgently.”
    Omachoko heeded his orders without hesitation.
    Udale stood, resting her hand on the branch of the cashew tree in front of the uncompleted building in this bushy and deserted area. She was so lost in thoughts. ‘What in her life would she ever be able to do right?’ she couldn’t supply answers to the question. She had dialled Matthew’s number over and over again, same answer. Her heart was thrown into shreds. Into broken pieces that cannot undergo any further breakage again. She couldn’t help but ask why Matthew did this to her… or did she do it to herself? She didn’t know who to handle the blame in this case. She remained still as a lot of things flashed back her mind, as vivid and as precise as possible.
    “Good afternoon Ma’am!” She jerked involuntarily as she heard the voice.
    No. No one should have known where she went to.
    The doctor told her that Laibe’s cut was deep but she hadn’t lost so much blood, all thanks to the timeliness of the nurse. He assured her that it wouldn’t be so much issue except that they would keep a stronger eye on her henceforth, since she has resulted to attempting suicide. Udale, on her own side, couldn’t bear up the whole issue anymore.
    Her husband impregnated her only niece.
    The niece now is attempting suicide, aside the many other deaths in her family she blames herself totally for.
    Somehow she left the hospital building before anyone could notice. She needed to think. She was getting mad.
    “Max?” she couldn’t believe her eyes. “How did you find out I was here?”
    “I brought him!” Udale turned around to see Pastor Lydia coming through the same side of the uncompleted building Max apparently passed.
    “Minister Onuche, the chief doctor… or how do you people call it, of Bethel hospital… called me. He said he was sending this young man to the church office and there is something he needed to talk about. Since daddy isn’t in town at the moment., I had to hear him out.”
    “Talk to you? Max? Except that he is a doctor practicing in Lokoja, what does he have to talk to you about?” She carried eyes from Pastor Lydia to Max. “Oh! Or has my husband been impregnating girls back in Lokoja too?”
    Udale’s confusion was growing with each explanation her ‘mother’ made. She wasn’t surprised that pastor Lydia knew her hide out. They, daddy and she that is, know where she would usually run to when things get too messy for her to understand. The place she went at those early times of living with them and they were objecting to her decision of getting married to Matthew. They didn’t really have any strong point to convince her and when she took to hiding out of their sight, they gave up and let her marry the man of her choice.
    That marriage was the greatest mistake she had ever made in the entirety of her life, at least, so she feels right now.
    No children.
    No happiness.
    A pregnant niece for her husband.
    Another of the times she ran here was when she was confusing one pregnant woman that came to see Matthew as a mistress.
    A lot of water has crossed the bridge in Udale’s eyes and she is having a really tough time bringing herself to accepting this horrible fate.
    Max swallowed. He couldn’t tell if the woman in front of him was only being sarcastic or she meant to really ask if her husband was doing that around. It’s not her fault any way; he may be tempted to think that way if in her condition.
    “I have been treating Dr Matthew at the Lugard house hospital for a while now. It was under the directives of my mentor and senior colleague who is also my uncle, Dr Nonso.” Max could feel some perspiration on his forehead but he has to keep his voice normal, giving out no tension at all. He is shouldn’t be emotional, he is a doctor – the only doctor here.
    “So Honourable commissioner for agriculture…”
    “Wait!” Udale cut in, holding up her hand
    “Allow the young man to talk, daughter!” Pastor Lydia said, after keeping quiet for so long she must have been forgotten
    “Wait…” Udale yelled before she could stop herself. She finally stopped and sighed. “I’m sorry. Mummy, I’ll only ask the young doctor some questions and his answers to them would determine my audience or not.”
    Pastor Lydia gave a knowing look at Max and he immediately knew he needed to brace up even more.
    “So, Josh knew about this?” Udale asked, not moving her eyeballs any inch away from Max.
    “Know about what, Ma’am?” He feigned ignorance.
    “OK, I’ll either change or rephrase the statement. Do you know that my husband has been sleeping with my niece who is young enough to be his daughter or not?”
    This was that point Max had dreaded while on the motorcycle that took him to the church. Pastor Lydia has queried him so much about why he heartlessly didn’t leak the secrets out and save everyone this traumatic situation. He tried to explain to her about the patience confidentiality part of the medical ethics. Though that particular thing feels like bullshit right now. He couldn’t even calculate how many people got and would still get affected with this. He was that extremely careful because he was caught up among politicians – toughest men in the state.
    “Oh! You knew?” Udale’s voice came up loud, so loud that it startled Max.
    He must have stayed quiet for too long a time.
    “It’s somehow complicated, Ma’am!”
    “Damnit!” Udale hit hard at the branch of the tree she’s holding onto. “Where did I go wrong? Ehn! Mummy, abuche ke? What have I done for Matthew to waste my life like this?” She was crying now.
    Max felt sweats roll down the back of his hair to clog on his back, wetting the polo shirt he had on. He can never stand a woman’s tears.
    “Udale, please pull yourself together?” Pastor Lydia admonished, coming to hold onto the weeping Udale. She’s weeping like a bitter baby, the type that automatically makes everyone around her feel guilty and responsible for a lot of unknown things.
    “Mummy, was this what you meant by ‘some men have wives they never married? Putting a poor child in the family way?”
    Udale sounded pitiful.
    “Mummy, talk to me. Is it because I haven’t been able to conceive? Couldn’t he have gone for any of those rich women in his office? Any of those women. Why must it be this poor child? Mummy, can someone…”
    “He is a paedophile!” Max cut in. He couldn’t stand the woman’s tears any longer. Even though he planned to eventually break the news out, this one seems like a slip of the tongue.
    “What? What did you just say?”
    His phone buzzed and started ringing just when he was about responding
    “Dr Matthew!” He announced and the women popped their eyes open.
    “Hello sir!” He waited, hoping to hear Matthew’s coarse voice but no, the background on the other side of the call was so noisy, and he was managing to hear whoever was calling.
    “State patrol?” He exclaimed and the women drew closer to him reflexively.
    “Accident? What!”
    He couldn’t tame his mouth anymore. He was as scared of the eventualities as everyone else and somehow he found himself praying that nothing too lethal had happened.
    “OK. Thank you so much for calling sir, I would be on my way as soon as possible. Thank you, sir.”
    “What happened?” Udale asked just when he barely dropped the phone off his ear. His eyes carried no hope at all… for the first time.
    “Matthew had a fatal accident on the Abuja-Kaduna highway.” He said, with the little calmness he could gather.
    “Matthew? Kaduna? What is he going to do in Kaduna? Oh my God!” Udale was jumping on one of her feet.
    “Let’s get out of this place first.” Max said, walking away immediately.
    Pastor Lydia with watery eyes held onto the feeble, tired and weeping Udale.
    Pain can never be measured in equal sizes.
    Oga Jude walked into the office, Omachoko following closely behind him.
    “You are welcome sir.” The secretary said as courteously as she could, rising to her feet.
    “Is my wife in?” Oga Jude asked, smiling and ignoring her question.
    “Yes, she is sir.” Her eyes are all on Omachoko and he could only wonder why. It was not the normal look of astonishment or marvel; it was the type that speaks clearly the state of her heart.
    Omachoko saw Oga Jude open the door to the inner office and he hurried off after him quickly, before he would close it.
    Halima was standing against her window. She probably was so lost in thoughts because she looked frightened the initial time she turned to face them.
    “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t know you would get here this fast.” She moved to hug her husband. “…Choko, choko, my personal person, apart from shinning, what other hobby do you have?” she sniffed, rubbing his back lightly. The way one would a child that’s crying.
    Omachoko is used to this. Maybe because she deals majorly with kids, she supposes everyone to be one. If not, what would explain patting the back of a fully grown man? Halima is extremely caring. Caring to a fault. That was probably part of the reasons Omachoko will never go to their house. At the early times with Oga Jude, she would send a driver to buy food and bring for him. She did that three consecutive times every day. That was before she got busy anyway. Omachoko couldn’t have had any mind of being more hardworking if she had stayed back and keep loading his stomach with free food. She is sweet like that. She got busy attending a lot of professional seminars and taking examinations here and there. To Omachoko, it was a good thing she got busy.
    “Nice to see you again, Aunty Halima. It’s been so long. Where have you been?”
    “Yeah! Really long. I’ve been in my house.” She winked her tired eyes at Omachoko who smiled. He knew where she was going to with that answer.
    “Lolo, that was exactly what I was telling him in the car o. So he cannot now see Helen on the road or anywhere and recognise her.” Oga Jude added, concentrating on whatever he was doing on his phone.
    “It’s not like that jor. I should have met her today, save for school. But I’ll meet her soon. Probably take her out. She may even be a wife material Oga.” Omachoko was giving an inconvenient joke and he knew it.
    Oga Jude scoffs, looking at his wife. She has grown lean within the few hours she left home this morning and now?
    “Lolo, asthmatic attacks now makes you cry?” Oga Jude asked
    Omachoko felt that question was insensitive. Maybe not, though. He knew about her health condition right from time. He was quite close to her at that beginning time and she served more or less like a spur to him as well. Her wells are golden. Maybe that’s why his oga calls her Lolo, she is royalty indeed. Slender and tall, with ageless soft, clay colour skin. Her smile? It can melt the heart of a wicked king. And that smile was what she just gave now. He has really missed her.
    “You know, because I was a victim myself, I know how it feels when poor innocent children are molested.” Halima started but her husband interrupted her.
    “Nne bia, what am I saying, what are you saying? I’m asking why your eyes are red!”
    “I know, sir. You know so much stress usually stimulate the attack. I had seen some messy things today and started coughing dryly some minutes ago, I didn’t want to embarrass myself so let’s just have the inhaler to be double protected.”
    “Seen messy things?” Oga Jude sounded concerned. “What happened?”
    She took a breath in before explaining. She talked about the girl that had been under sexual abuse by her uncle for about three years now, how she had suffered in silence because according to her, her aunty is so unapproachable. She talked up to the part of discovering the pregnancy and the suicide attempt of the little girl.
    “What?” Omachoko screamed, springing onto his feet. “The bastard should be locked in the deepest part of the dungeon and the key should be thrown into the river. Mtcheew!” He drew a long kiss.
    “I feel so horrible. How can people be so heartless to molest a little child? The innocence, the helplessness, the undue sadness.” A tear rolled down her right cheek and she wiped it out immediately. “…my father almost made my life miserable. He would get drunk and I became his prey for that night!” She coughed out loudly.
    Oga Jude quickly got up to hold his wife down till she sat comfortably. He picked at her hair lightly.
    “You really don’t have to remember all those, Lolo. You know you can’t afford to break down now.”
    “This asthmatic nonsense was his entire fault… or was it Nne’s fault? She was hurt. I can understand her pain. It’s only that I couldn’t understand why she chose only me to pour the anger on; by sending me out of the house in the cold night and asking me never to come back.” She was literally crying this time.
    Oga Jude held onto her. He never approves her talking about this part of her life. She wouldn’t agree, but she obviously hasn’t been able to deal with the hurt. It’s so long ago now; one should naturally enjoy saying the story. Halima’s case is different; her heart is as soft and charming as her smile.
    “I didn’t get pregnant then o and you knew all I went through before God finally fated our paths to meet…” He looked up at him leeringly and he blushed. They almost have become oblivious of Omachoko’s presence and he didn’t mind. He was enjoying the whole show.
    After getting everything good, get a wife good in everything. That has been Omachoko watchword.
    “…this girl in question is pregnant!”
    “God!” Oga Jude exclaimed, falling into the settee beside her.
    Omachoko felt like getting up and going in search of the heartless fellow that must have subjected a little girl to this so much pain.
    “Where is the idiot now?” He asked, in an angered tone.
    “We don’t know my dear. He left here this morning when I broke the news of her pregnancy to him and they said his number has been unreachable all day. The wife is so devastated and had to leave. I understand her case.” She mopped her face with the handkerchief she dragged close from the shelf beside the settee they are sitting on.
    “Can I see the girl?” Oga Jude asked, sounding really concerned.
    He got up, collected Halima’s hand and helped pull her up.
    “I would be back shortly, Choko. Please wait up for me.”
    “Oh why?” Halima asked with surprised tone. “You can come along Omachoko. She was sedated so as to stitch the cut she gave her wrist. She is still asleep.” She turned to Omachoko who didn’t get up from his seat. “Oh! Unless you don’t want.”
    He finally dragged himself up. He was fuming with anger so much so that he rolled his first into a strong blow
    “Calm down, Choko!” Oga Jude said as he gave way and let Halima lead them out of her office and in the direction of the private wards.
    ‘The stupid men that molest poor girls would look for death if my hand lands on any of them…’ he said within himself. To him, it’s the highest degree of insolence and they are still thriving around because there is no known measure to accost them until harm has been done beyond repairs.
    He stopped and took deep calming breaths as Halima opened the door to the wardroom. He waited till the other two were really inside before entering, his head first, then the body much later.

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    Episode 32
    Udale held onto one of her husband’s hands. No matter what she had discovered he did, she couldn’t bear the mere thought of losing him to the shivering hands of death. A part of her that still felt any form of affection for him… whether love or pity, she held onto it. All through the drive from Ankpa down to the federal medical centre Abuja, she had pondered over and over again on Max’s revelation.
    “Isn’t that a type of paraphilia? A mental disorder? A sexual orientation?”
    She couldn’t believe her ears. Matthew seemed normal and alright. Well, according to the part of mental health that was taught her in nursing school and all the various professional courses she had undertaken in her course of service, people with sexual orientation usually lead a normal healthy life, so much so that the difference between paedophiles and the seemingly ‘normal’ people is in the category of people they are sexually attracted to. Also, it has come on record that one major boosting characteristics that can stimulate the expression of these disorders is isolation.
    Matthew has always been an isolated person right from time immemorial. In fact, it was because her pastors, who were her guardians then, felt she needed some more courtship time, to get to know him better, that they were hesitating. She, however, felt she found the one. The very ‘right one’ at that. Matthew has always been a man of few words, but whenever he outbursts in anger, you would wish hell was let loose instead. She had always known him to be a lover of little, adolescent and all categories of children – probably that was why he taught at a secondary school regardless of his high performance from the university.
    Perhaps he discovered this inordinate feelings for the children he taught and that was why he resigned, to the utter amazement of everyone. This could only be the most reasonable explanation for that kind of drastic decision he took, as he has blatantly refused to say to anyone why he let go of his so called life’s passion. Doctor Max said they discovered… rather, they confirmed it not so long ago. It was actually Dr Nonso that did, during one of his numerous interactions with Matthew, and he had been undergoing therapy and taking drugs alongside since then. Drugs has not been an effective medium of treating patients with mental disorders, research has come to prove, and this is even worse because it’s a sexual orientation. Maybe, all those ‘initial gragra’ were his own way of being careful so his lust doesn’t lead him into something as embarrassing as what has eventually happened.
    Udale could remember a lot of things.
    First and foremost was his outright refusal to accommodate Laibe, the first day she was brought to Ankpa. Udale had known Matthew to be friends with children right from the world go, so couldn’t really understand why he was that harsh with her niece. Maybe if she had calmed down to hear his reasons, she would have found another better option. But she wasn’t calming down at all, in fact, none of them seemed ready to reach a consensus regarding the matter. Udale could bet her instinct telling her that her husband had something on his mind which he needed to say. His hesitations in voicing out was more or less a source of worry to her.
    Who would say such a thing as this easily, anyway?
    Thence, came this issue of Matthew telling baba that he would be taking another wife; there was also a time he told Udale that she might be the ‘architectural designer’ of his next wife.
    Udale cried more on his hand while all these thoughts flashed back her mind. He is lying unconscious with the oxygen mask firmly gripping his nose.
    She still can’t stop wondering why Dr Nonso hadn’t told her. Matthew’s case isn’t exclusively paedophilia as it were then; because they had great sex in the beginning time of their marriage, at least up until the resignation from teaching. Things started moving down the spiral from that time, so much so that at some points, she felt like a stranger on her own husband’s bed. They slept so wide apart like young people forbidden to fornicate.
    When pastor Lydia told her, ‘some men have wives they never married’, it didn’t make the slightest meaning to her or maybe the older woman didn’t explain well enough? Could she have known about this Matthew’s condition too and didn’t tell her?
    “No! That can’t be!” She screamed from her thoughts.
    Her head is beginning to shatter again. So much sorrow in her lifetime. She glanced at Matthew to be sure her shout didn’t wake him, on a second thought, she wished the shout actually could wake him.
    The more she thinks about it, the more she realises that this abuse thing thrived in her house due to her quick assumption, ignorance and carefreeness.
    What could she have rather done?
    They have taken Laibe to be their own daughter. Should a mother not trust her husband with their daughter any longer?
    As much as she tried, she wasn’t well able to console herself.
    There was the night Matthew woke her up. He looked like he had something serious on his mind. Maybe, she should have listened instead of talking. Maybe she should not have concluded he was only worried with Baba’s ill health and let him say what his mind was. But she would not. Typical of her to take the first lead and feel in charge of every situation. See where it has landed her in now.
    Then the day she found a lot of romantic presents in Laibe’s room. The little girl said her uncle bought them for her and actually when she confronted her husband, she could tell she felt discomfort in his voice. He first was eager to confirm how she learnt of it. Udale didn’t suspect anything, nothing whatsoever. Even when the white paper she saw in Ocholi’s hands that evening contained a horror diagram – a little girl with tattered clothes, like the type that result after gang rape, was pushing hard at a thick tall wall. A huge man, who she now believes was the abuser seemed to be chasing after the poor little girl as she struggles for rescue, while another older woman is seen, just beside them, dozing off on a table with lots of paper works to attend to.
    Udale snapped back immediately,
    “Did Ocholi say he drew that picture? He probably quickly admitted making that painting, just not to arouse further questions. So it was a cover up? Oh my God!” Her tears doesn’t seem to be finishing as they poured out the more, helplessly. She should have pressed on further till Ocholi tell her the truth about who made that painting.
    Instead, she was stupidly more concerned about Ocholi teaching her fine arts than she was about the message Laibe’s painting was presenting.
    She has heard that abused children result to writing or drawing their pains since they’ve been probably banned and at some case threatened from letting anyone know about it.
    Why didn’t she think this?
    Udale pitied herself.
    Of course, the painting on the white paper, though not so accurately done depicts deep emotions. She could see the connection more now as she thinks about it. Right there was a poor girl running away from an abusive man, and she, who is supposed to be the refuge, the listener, the mother the girl could run to, was busy with a lot of work coupled with tiredness, so much so, that she didn’t even smell the aroma of the food being cooked under her very nose. She has always called herself a failed mother, guess this crowns it all. She used to be one of those persons that wonder how sexual abuses thrives in homes and people don’t get to learn of it early enough until a danger or harm is done. At those times, she blamed the man who is irresponsible enough to be involved in such an abominable act but right now, she has seen how much most of the abuses thrive, simply because one of the parents – especially the mother, has chosen to be either too busy or carefree.
    The latest of the events that made her completely judge herself a failure was the day she brought Baba from the village. Truth is, everything sounded and appeared suspicious to her that morning but she didn’t let her brain think the possibilities in there. Mathew rarely sleeps in the sitting room… more like never. She found the spare bunch of keys for the house, which is always kept somewhere not close by, on the table. He was wearing only a boxer and slept so deep that he didn’t even notice when she walked in till she tapped him and the best explanation her ‘daft head’ could conclude was that PHCN probably dragged him out there.
    “How could I be that dumb?” she asked herself.
    “Laibe’s room was scattered. Since I don’t even visit enough times, I couldn’t tell if that was done overnight or if it was a normal attitude. God! I was so fast to judge her. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t explain herself, yet I was busy slapping her.” Udale let hot searing tears pour down her face as the scene of that day played in her head, torturing every part of her being. She should have known that Laibe would normally run into her grandfather’s arms any day, and not stand staring vaguely at him. She should have asked better to be sure her leaping painful steps was truly as a result of playing badminton as she claimed… or not. She should never have been quick to judge Laibe. She should have visited her room more often, get to know the kind of person she is, and what her fears were. She should have been less concerned with the IVF Dr Nonso advised they do and focus on caring for her niece who had become her daughter. She should have tried to understand Matthew’s hesitations about accommodating Laibe, she should have tried to understand his hesitations concerning doing an IVF. She should have done a lot of things to save her marriage and the poor girl. She should have… she should have…she should have done a lot of things, but she failed at all of it, every single one of it.
    “Oh God! I’m a failed wife and mother!” she screamed out.
    “No, you are not.”
    Udale jerked back to see someone she presumed to be the doctor walk in. Pastor Lydia couldn’t follow them down to Abuja as she needed to stay with Laibe at the hospital. Max who drove them down has been with the doctor… this doctor, ever since and now that he was here, Udale could only hope for a milder bad news, because it’s certain the news can’t be any good.
    “Doctor, is my husband going to survive this?” She dragged herself up and hurriedly moved over to the approaching doctor. She has lost appreciable kilograms of weight in the last weeks. She hopes to wake up sometime and all these are nightmares.
    “Calm down, Mrs…”
    “Onoja… Udale Onoja.” She cuts in before the doctor could finish her name.
    He nodded.
    His face wasn’t betraying any expression whatsoever and Udale could feel her heart almost spilling out through her ribcage.
    “Let’s see in my office, Ma’am.” He said, and turned to walk out.
    Udale glanced at the helpless shadow of her very own hefty husband on the bed and sniffs. She picked up her phone and followed the doctor as fast as she could. If there was anything she’s sure about, it’s the fact that Laibe cannot keep a baby for her husband.
    Laibe felt like she was watching her own obituary.
    How could this be happening to her?
    She had long been eager to meet Aunty Halima’s daughter and she just did, even though she never envisaged meeting her this way. A lot of things has happened since morning. The last she could remember was that she felt horrible about herself. First was that Uncle Matthew walked in, glared at her like a piece of thrash and walked out in silence. He was followed by aunty Udale much later, and she came asking her who she was pregnant for. She had sat down helplessly when her aunty dashed out of the room, and Halima followed after her. She used to think she was a curse of some sort. If not, what would explain her losing her dad, her mother, her grandfather and now… herself. She wanted to end it all. There was absolutely no use of her anymore, so she grabbed one of the dinning knives in her food basket and slashed her hand. She was praying to die.
    She needed to die.
    Perhaps after death, she would understand why so much horrible things has happened to her in a life time – her father died in a ghastly motor accident when she was only a child. Then her mother died also few years ago. She felt coming to Ankpa when aunty Udale suggested it to her this time three years ago was God’s way of answering prayers and taking her many steps nearer her dreams. She had always wanted to be great, to be influential, and to be someone with a name. The first thing she did with the android phone uncle Matthew bought for her was to google names of influential young people in Nigeria. She saw many persons that gave her inspiration and if not for anything, she shares one thing in common with most of those people – they came from a very humble background. Majority of those persons are survivors of poverty, abuse, discrimination and even low self-esteem. She was so inspired that even with the torture and abuse from her uncle, she could still see that one day she would be able to break lose and become all that she had ever wanted to be.
    Those are not feasible anymore.
    A sixteen year old girl who is pregnant for her own uncle? What good can come out of such a girl ever again? She has lost her dignity, her self-esteem, her self-worth, and also her academic pursuit.
    “Tell the members of the class that I’m so sorry for disappointing them.” Laibe cries on Helen’s shoulders while hugging her.
    Helen was crying bitterly too. In fact, the latter’s tears superseded that of Laibe. Helen’s driver brought her to the hospital on the demand of her mother. The older woman has been telling Helen about an interesting patient of hers she should meet. So it’s more like she’s been looking forward to this day; the day she would finally come to her mother’s office – where she visits once in a blue moon. Her parents practically forbids her from leaving the house, let alone coming to any of their work places, not as though they are always around to start with. She was so eager to see this girl her mother told her so much about, also that the girl was eager to see her too. She didn’t believe her eyes on getting to the office to see her father and the young man that frightened them with car about two months ago. They were actually both stunned, herself and Omachoko that is, so much so that they held each other’s gaze absentmindedly for many minutes. It was her father’s attempt at introduction that interrupted the stare. One thought came to her mind, and that’s to call Laibe’s aunty that she had seen the guy again. The guy seemed dangerous, at least, her friend’s life seemed to have turned in disarray since they saw this guy. It’s even safer that he appears to be working with her father – that way they can pin him down if he attempted escaping. All these were carefully undergoing synchronous calculations in her head till she got to the ward room to see that the girl she has heard so much about was Laibe.
    “Laibe!” she had screamed and her mother quickly pulled her by the arm and out of the room.
    “Do you know her?” Her mother had asked curiously, sounding like she was whispering. Well, it’s an intensive care unit.
    She explained everything to her mother, and they all waited for Laibe to wake up. Laibe didn’t look happy waking at all.
    It was truly a suicide attempt.
    “I’ll miss you, Helen.”
    Helen wiped at a tear dropping down her soft skin.
    “Laibe, stop talking like you are going to die.”
    Laibe chuckled in spite of herself,
    “Am I not dead already, Helen? Everything has been taken away from me. What more should I live for?” The questions came out so deep that Helen’s heart broke while hearing it.
    “Sometimes we feel like just dying and letting the pain all go away, but then we need to stay alive… that’s because we have to see how the story ends.” The familiar voice came through the door.
    “’Choko?” Laibe exclaimed tiredly, and as though his name carried onions, more tears gushed down her face.
    Everyone had left Laibe and Helen alone, and have been waiting back at Halima’s office for them. Oga Jude left a while ago though, after he got a call. So Omachoko has been in that office with the two women, Halima and pastor Lydia. It was Halima that asked him to go check the girls as they appeared to be taking so much time. The poor psychotherapist was afraid of another attempted murder.
    “Laibe, I need you to be strong now.” He quickly wiped a teardrop off his own face.
    Grabbing Laibe’s feeble body, he bent over to hug her. He has never seen his beautiful girl breakdown in tears this way before, except when her mother died. Even the tears then wasn’t as deep, as painful and as sorrowful as this. This felt like a dagger was passed through her chest and she was screaming at every painful drill.
    Helen held the handkerchief firmly to her nose as she stood somewhere there watching the duo cry in each other’s arms. It is true now that this fellow loves her friend, and he wasn’t a sign of danger as she had thought him to be. Something to be grateful for today.
    Laibe quickly jerked off the hug. Omachoko would have fallen backwards if he wasn’t much bigger and heftier than her.
    “Helen, please call your mum and mummy Lydia.” She signalled to Helen, avoiding Omachoko’s eyes as much as possible. She was sure he couldn’t wait to decipher what she was up to and why she was sending for those women.
    In a flash, the door opened and Helen led the two beautiful women into the room. Laibe is just noticing the resemblance between Helen and her mother, Halima. Whatever made her not notice earlier, though?
    Pastor Lydia came to sit down, while Halima hurried over to her.
    “Are you OK, baby?” Her voice was shaky.
    “I am.” Laibe manages a fake smile.
    Laibe sat still for a long time. It felt gloomy in there. Everywhere was extremely quiet and heartbeats from everyone in the room came out loudly, like the characteristic traditional drums from the ogani festival. Those, and the whir of the fan above them produced the little sound heard in the deafening silent room.
    “Lee, why did you ask I call them then?” Helen couldn’t hide her apprehension anymore.
    Laibe carried pain struck eyes from one person in the room to another. She did it so slow that fifteen rounds of cardiac cycle would be completed by the time she was able to move her eyes to another person. Haven done that, she took in a very deep breath.
    “I… I…” she stammered.
    If the eyes pointing at her carried guns, she would have been shut dead, over and over again, by now with their stares.
    “I want Omachoko to… I want to … I mean, I…want to go back to Ofabo.”
    “Ofabo?” everyone screamed as she let out the bombshell.
    They screamed it, at the same time, as though planned.
    “Please have your seat, ma.”
    Udale moved her curious eyes from the doctor that just spoke to the seat offered her. She stared so intensely at the seat, as if she was trying to gauge its capacity to carry her with her eyes, before finally bringing herself to sitting on it. She sat up, with her hands resting on the desk in front of her. She is as much afraid as she is scared… well, there may not be any difference between these two words but to her right now, the news should be at least better than worst. Once she is done from here, she may have to quickly go back to Ankpa and see how Laibe can terminate the pregnancy before more persons hear about it.
    It’s already more than shameful as it were.
    If Matthew had impregnated another person, like the Angela woman she was suspecting at the initial point, it wouldn’t have been as shameful and abominable as impregnating someone that is literally her own daughter.
    Baba’s spirit would not be happy wherever he is, she thought.
    She quickly discarded that thought as fast as it came. The dead are dead, and have no spirits roaming around anywhere, she reminded herself.
    Another thought had come to her mind also. Perhaps this an answer to the prayers Baba made about hearing a sound of baby in her house. Perhaps, she wasn’t fated to give birth to a child for Matthew. This Laibe’s baby might be the opportunity she has been waiting for. She tried to consider the option of adopting the child as hers and letting Laibe continue with her normal life. Being the emotional person she is, she just knew she can’t.
    What if the child is a girl? And Matthew being a paedophile abuses the child again.
    Laibe would abort that pregnancy and that’s non-negotiable.
    She brought back her attention to the doctor who was only staring vacantly into thin air.
    “Doctor, you are not talking?” she querried, breathing impatiently when the doctor’s silence was becoming deafening. The doctor on the other hand maintained a straight face, giving away no expression at all.
    “He drove into a ditch.” The doctor said, looking straight at Udale and she swallowed deeply.
    He continued notwithstanding. “Seeing the so many accidents that are happening at the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, Road Safety officers have been heavily mobilised to that area…”
    Udale didn’t know if she needed all these details. Doctors and unnecessary protocols! He was trying to calm her down perhaps, so as to absorb the oncoming bad news better. But what is the need of calming her down in the first place if she was going to still hear what he had to say?
    “They said it was while your husband sped off, after refusing to harken to their flagging him down, that he drove the car off the road and into a ditch.”
    “What? Were the Road safety men chasing him?” She demanded.
    “No! They said they weren’t even ready to chase after him. It was in their bid to attend to another oncoming car that they heard a loud noise, only to see the car has landed in a deep ditch. Well, it appears like an attempted suicide to me.” The doctor said and that made Udale flare up.
    “You just said he was attempting to avoid the never-do-well road safety officers on that road, that’s because they only wanted to collect bribe and nothing else. How can they save him when it was needed? They were busy waiting for another victim of theirs.” Udale drew a long hiss, in spite of herself.
    “I don’t think it’s so, Ma’am, because…”
    “Because? Because what doctor? My husband is laying there in serious coma, and all you are doing is defending the Federal Road safety commission?” she stood up and made to leave. The doctor felt frustration sauced with anger in her voice and could connect to it.
    “Have you ever seen him with this before?”
    Udale stopped in her track and turned to face the doctor. He is holding out a little bottle. The bottle look both familiar and unfamiliar. Familiar in that she had seen it sometimes at her workplace before, unfamiliar in that she has never seen it with or on her husband at any point. She moved closer and closer till she collected the bottle and held it in her hand.
    “We found that in his car’s safe. And after the tests we ran on him, we found the content in his blood. Obviously, your husband drank this poison before driving down that road, and its effects only started at that point, blurred his vision and made him drive into a ditch. Whatever the storyline is, ma’am, the point remains that your husband attempted suicide.”
    “Jesus!” Udale screamed and fell into her chair again. She left herself off so thunderously that the doctor thought she fainted. Her body shivered more and tears flew down freely off her face. Her legs felt so weak and her head so heavy on top of her neck.
    “The poison has affected a lot of things in his body. We are trying our best and hope he comes around. This is a very slim probability.”
    “Doctor, you mean, my husband might not survive this?” Udale’s tears could make a lion have an appetite to taste grass.
    “I can’t say Ma’am. Dr Max told me you are a matron, so I would be as blunt and open with you as possible. As it stands now, his chances of survival are slimmer than the slimmest of things there is. And if he eventually survives at all, he would remain impotent and a vegetable for the rest of his life.”
    Udale slid down gradually from the seat till her buttocks touched the floor as she screamed out in anguish.
    To be continued..

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    Episode 33
    Omachoko didn’t understand why his mother practically came over to open the car’s door for him. Now, she didn’t do that literarily, so to speak, but his mother haven’t come out to welcome him back from trips with this kind of worried look all over her face before. It is even more bothersome as it’s not any of his long trips. He only left here two weeks ago for Christ sake.
    “Olodudu ma!” He prostrated courteously.
    The old woman only smiled at him without responding to his greeting, neither was she moving any inch away from the place she’s been standing, just a little distance from the parking lot. Omachoko pressed down the car lock immediately he saw his assistant was done packing everything he came with. Not as though he travelled with a lot of luggage. He likes to travel as light as possible, and the only constant part of his load would be his heavy ‘timberland’ shoes.
    He watched as his mother’s eyes followed the nylon in his assistant’s hand until the young man disappeared from their sight. Everyone in this house can tell what’s in that nylon and who it’s for.
    “I chane mewn!” came her voice.
    Omachoko felt relieved that his mother finally spoke out, even though her words were not consoling enough, as it were. The old woman narrated to him how ‘his wife’ as she normally call her has been ‘misbehaving’ ever since he left. She doesn’t respond whenever anyone wants to engage her in discussions. At times she sits crying and lost, deep in thoughts. The worst part was that she wasn’t eating well enough. Most times, she would give the lame excuse of not having appetite for the particular food presented and even when another is brought to her, she turns it down absolutely. Omachoko’s mother understands how it is with pregnancy, and how some people suddenly develop frustrating habits towards the c----x of their gestation period. She thought initially that Omachoko’s ‘wife’ was having one of those mood swings and nauseating feelings that accompanies pregnancy, but lately she has resulted to worrying.
    Not eating. Not sleeping. Not having peace of mind.
    It’s not safe for the young girl, it’s not safe for her unborn child either.
    Omachoko tried to encourage his mother and make her see reasons with the poor girl. She has gone through a whole lot in her little life and his mother knows all of these. He commends the woman though, because, he didn’t know how he would have coped with Laibe when she insisted on coming back to the village. Laibe’s aunty couldn’t even say anything when Laibe’s decision was told her. Omachoko could see guilt in aunty Udale’s eyes – the type that makes one sign off any deal just so as to regain respect in the sight of the other party.
    Laibe on her own part gave him a lot of problems when she came back to Ofabo. Her both friends were gone – Ebi is married and Umali is hustling somewhere nobody knows in Lagos. Her grandfather – who was her rock in the village – was dead, and to crown it up, Omachoko has become helplessly busy, so much so that he can’t afford to stay back in the village with her at the times she probably wanted him to. He remembered Laibe insisting on going back to live in her empty grandfather’s house.
    ‘Has something come loosed in her head?’ Omachoko thought within, when those words left Laibe’s mouth. However was she thinking of living alone with pregnancy in an empty and isolated house.
    Omachoko employed two more house helps, in addition to the three his mother had before. All was for Laibe. So that the love of his life can stay comfortable in his family house and have everything done for her at her beck and call while he continues on his marketing, distribution and agricultural research works that are all lined up in front of him. Things even got overcrowded after the federal government hired his labour in addition to the tedious demands from the state government.
    “Ugbo I de abajoi?” Omachoko asked his mother where Laibe would be at the moment. The woman pointed in the direction that lead to the back of the house and Omachoko literally ran off there.
    True to his mother’s statement, Laibe was sitting on the wooden bench at the back of the house. This place has become her most favourite part of the house for obvious reasons. Omachoko had asked her, a month after he finally brought her back to Ofabo, if she could grant him one of his lifelong wishes. And when she asked him what that could be, he simply asked to lay his head on her laps. Omachoko could remember how she laughed unbelievably.
    At times, Laibe wonders why Omachoko practically adores her.
    They had a very long discussion that sunny morning with his dreadlocks resting on her tiny thighs as she crossed her legs on each other, so as to make the ‘bony pillow’ high enough for Omachoko. The young man is so hefty that the bench that bore Laibe comfortably could only bear his right leg, on which he placed his cowboy’s hat, while the left leg rested on the bare ground. They talked about a lot of things, even though he did the bulk of the talking – as talking has practically been deleted from Laibe’s to-do list. His eyes bore holes through Laibe’s face and he wished he could not just kiss her deeply, letting his tongue roll through the entire cavity of her beautiful mouth till they both got breathless, but also kiss all her pains away. That was the closest they’ve gotten ever. He could feel his own heartbeat as Laibe’s hands gentle stroked his dreads. She has always been his worst addiction.
    Even with the so much exposure Omachoko has now, they are two things about him that didn’t change. First is, he wouldn’t stop wearing heavily intimidating timberland shoes – very expensive ones now though, alongside a cowboy’s hat. A passionate farmer to the core. Second, and most important, is that his affection for Laibe hasn’t wavered in the very least.
    Ocholi also came over to see Laibe after about four months of settling in Ofabo. By that time, her once flat tummy was shooting out and she felt very disappointed in herself, facing her one time crush with heavy pregnancy for none other than his elder brother. The good thing though is that no one seem to be stigmatising her for it. Omachoko’s mother has taken her in as her own daughter ever since. Staying in Omachoko’s family house was the most reasonable thing to do, even though she gave him a lot of stress before yielding to his suggestion. She is heavily pregnant, and being her first time, going to live alone in Baba’s empty compound wasn’t ideal after all. She could get scared, feel haunted or even harm herself when alone.
    Laibe enjoyed Ocholi’s visit. He stayed two nights and Omachoko was around at that time, so it was all fun and games for the three of them. Ocholi brought her new sets of drawing materials and even when she wasn’t interested, he insisted she redrew the last painting she did – the painting in the white paper. Laibe couldn’t believe Ocholi preserved the paper until that time, but he did. According to him, he knew that wasn’t just a painting but some way of expressing deep inexpressible thoughts, so he was hoping that one day, Laibe would come around and let him in on all of it; on all of those things that terrified her silently and made light scare her. All of those things that made her attempt such a deep painting. That’s, of course, till everything turned messy. Ocholi was already getting to the middle of his first year in the master’s program then but he knew he needed to come back home after all Aunty Udale explained to him over the phone… or so he said. Laibe was more important than the very demanding course work he left behind. To Laibe, Ocholi’s coming brought some sort of healing to her, at least he didn’t sound like he was utterly disappointed in her.
    Omachoko startled her.
    Laibe formed a little frown on her face. Omachoko would never stop doing same thing, especially after you let him know that thing is upsetting you. Typical of him. She had warned him not to call her ‘woman’ uncountable times but he wouldn’t bulge. She got used to it anyway; after these long months.
    “You scared me!” Laibe got up and hit him hard on his chest till he screamed out in fake pain.
    “Someone missed me too much she couldn’t eat her food, so I heard!” Omachoko said, touching her soft cheeks lovingly. Laibe has added a recognisable amount of weight, maybe due to the pregnancy and also due to too much enjoyment.
    “Ahhh! Was that what Mama told you?”
    Omachoko laughed, seeing the innocence Laibe was trying hard to portray. He drew closer to her, till the space between them would barely be enough for air to pass through, except that her protruded stomach gave a natural barrier. He could feel Laibe’s heart beating fast as he looked on at her.
    “OK! Yes! I missed you.” Laibe said quickly, waving him off with her hand before turning her back. Omachoko laughed even harder. He knows Laibe has always been allergic to stares, especially when it’s deep and leering like the one some moments ago. He wrapped his hands around her waist as her back leaned against his chest.
    “You still didn’t switch on your phone?” He said into her ears like a whisper.
    Laibe shrugged. “Not again! You were at least contacting me through Mama, weren’t you?”
    “I may not be the only one that want to call you, you know? Your friends may want to say Hi to you, Ocholi may want to talk to you too, it’s been over five months since he left here. Your aunty, your…”
    “Enough!” she screamed, snapping herself off his hands.
    Omachoko stepped back as he watched her flare up in anger. Laibe’s anger is interesting, because she would barely say anything before tears come pouring down. Her tears are golden, and Omachoko never want to see them.
    “I bought you corn beef. The exact type you like.” He took another method to pacify her and like a baby, the almost crying Laibe started smiling through her tears.
    Now, they were there.
    “Why do you do all these for me, ‘Choko?” she drew nearer to the wooden bench and sat down. Due to her condition, she can barely stand for long before getting exhausted these days.
    Omachoko came over to where she sat, and took his seat as well. He clamped his hand and this time avoided eye contact.
    “I must have probably told you this enough times but there is no harm in repeating it, right? Especially when the big woman says to.”
    Laibe eyeballed him coldly and he smiled.
    “The day I told Baba that I was going to Ankpa, he asked me a question I would never forget in a hurry. He asked me to tell him whether that decision was made because of you or that I really wanted to go to Ankpa. Deep down, I knew my going to Ankpa was to combat with the distance created between you and I.”
    “But I never saw you. Not even once.” Laibe cut in.
    He nodded in the affirmative. “You don’t ask for the heart of an ambitious girl with an empty hand.”
    Laibe scoffed. “So you take me to be money-seeking, is that?”
    Omachoko could feel the provocation in her tone and knew he needed to thread with caution now.
    “It’s not safe for my ego as a man! You are smart enough as it were and that’s intimidating enough. Coming to ask you out again without anything to show for it feels like abusing a goddess.”
    Laibe blushed carelessly.
    “All of those doesn’t explain why you are doing all these for me, ‘Choko.”
    “Yeah. I know!” He took her hand and placed it on the left side of his chest. “You remember this?”
    Laibe nodded.
    He has done this enough times for her to narrate a video of it.
    “You are here in my heart, now, always and forever.” He said, pulling her up. She reluctantly followed him up till he drew her into his arms for a long hug. Omachoko then withdrew from the hug and sat down.
    “Come and sit.” He pointed her to his laps.
    Laibe’s shocked eyes begged him to stop ‘rough play’.
    He stretched forth his hand and dragged her till she fell on his laps.
    “Choko, what are you doing?” Her shaky voice came out loud.
    Everyone wonders why everything scares Laibe, especially the slightest show of emotions.
    “I wanna show you something.” She wanted to respond but he shush her quickly. “Just close your eyes.”
    “No, I can’t. Just show me.” Laibe protested.
    “You are the one keeping us now o. Don’t think you are weightless on my legs o. I’m carrying two persons.” Omachoko winked at her and she smiled.
    He can be funny in a ridiculous way. She weighed her possible options and decided to try closing her eyes, even when, she felt like a gun was pointing her head while doing that.
    “Yeah! It’s two minutes now, open your eyes…” Omachoko whispered in her ears.
    Laibe could not believe her eyes. She has only seen sapphire twice, in a movie, and the day she decided to search it out on Google. Here she is seeing it life and direct. The rays from the early morning sun made it even glitter the more on her face, lighting everywhere up with colourful sparkles. Omachoko dug his hand into the box containing the ring. He had searched everywhere for this particular ring and when he got it during this trip, he knew it’s about time.
    “Please, marry me Laibe.” He popped out the statement that came like a question. Like a question because his searching eyes demanded an answer as it looked on like a hungry puppy.
    Laibe covered her mouth with her hands as tears rolled down freely now. It felt as though she was dreaming and wouldn’t want anyone to wake her up. She looked down at her stomach and saw it’s still protruded.
    Did Omachoko just ask her to marry him?
    Who engages a pregnant girl?
    She couldn’t help the thoughts, and as though someone hit her lower back with a dagger, she screamed out.
    She tried to steady herself but the pain came again, sharper than the initial one. Omachoko didn’t understand what was going on. First the scream came like an over joyous and excited one, but now, it’s coming like pain… severe pangs. He looked on helplessly at Laibe, as the girl seem to be having unbearable pain on her lower back.
    What to do?
    He looked down to see water-like liquid flowing down her legs.
    What is happening?
    He quickly dropped the box containing the ring, gently let Laibe down and raced into the house to get his mother.
    The old woman ran out of the building and towards Laibe.
    Laibe was screaming, wailing, and crying altogether.
    “eeeeh! Ahhhh! Mama ooo! Ooooh!”
    Omachoko saw his mother wasn’t as worried as he was and he admonished himself to calm down, bearing in mind the fact that he is the man of the house. The old woman smiled on seeing the water dripping down Laibe’s legs and held onto her, in a futile bid of stabilising her.
    “Nya di Iye Ebi wa.” She ordered Omachoko to go call Ebi’s mother.
    She sounded really urgent with the order, so much so that Omachoko started running out of the compound before he could stop himself. He wanted to ask his mother why Ebi’s mother should be summoned when Laibe is screaming out in pains. He wanted to suggest putting her in the car and racing her down to Aloma – where the nearest hospital is. Then he remembered that there is only one local midwife in the entire village and that’s who he was asked to go and bring.
    “Of course. I know ‘I was held up in traffic’ would be your excuse.” He gave a disapproving look at the man who hastily walked over to his seat in the office. Dahunsi laughed, he had just a polo and midi-length trouser on.
    “Now, that you know my usual say, what then would be my defence?”
    The both of them laughed this time.
    “Seriously mehn! I’m sorry, today’s game review was much and fans kept calling in. I couldn’t end the program abruptly.”
    Ocholi shook his head as he stared back at his friend.
    “When people like us are struggling to get a Master degree, just so as to gain relevance, children of the rich like you inherited the biggest Arts studio in Lagos on the platter of gold, yet you prefer to work as a radio Sports reporter c-m host? Incredible!”
    Dahunsi smiled. “How was your flight, man? It’s been over five months since we last saw you within the borders of our beloved country.”
    “Course work has been tight. My flight went well. I came in the last flight and the car from Lagos here should have taken me closer to Lokoja by now if not that you didn’t show up on time at your work place.”
    Dahunsi knew Ocholi so well. He can like to hold onto one point and beat it for as long as possible.
    “I wonder who is a son of the rich among the both of us. You are taking a master degree in Fine Arts abroad. Abroad o. In this economic recession, you still enjoy the luxury of flying in and out of the country at will.”
    “You know I wouldn’t travel if I had nothing important doing.” Ocholi was on the defensive.
    “Ehennn! Same here! You know I won’t keep you waiting if I had nothing important doing on Radio.” Dahunsi winked at him and he scoffed.
    “Even your sales manager wasn’t on seat. You are leaving this place for your secretary to run, right?”
    “No. You see, it’s too early. Moreover, people don’t usually buy art works in this part of the world. They, more often than not, come on tours and excursions down here. Only few, like you that your life is tied to Fine Arts, come to buy.” Ocholi eyeballed him. “You haven’t told me who you always drop by to buy drawing sets for. Or don’t they sell it in your abroad school?” He sounded very sarcastic and Ocholi was ready to respond suit.
    “They do. Ones with greater quality for that matter.” Ocholi waited till Dahunsi shot him an angry eye. He smiled victoriously before continuing, “…but then I prefer to buy it from you this block head. And don’t get it twisted, it’s for my younger sister!”
    “Younger sister bawo? Are you not the last born of the Onoja’s anymore?”
    Ocholi was just about to respond when the door creaked open. An elegant lady walked in. She was on little high heels, with hair flying down her shoulders. Ocholi stared at her absentmindedly. She was wearing a grey chiffon dress – it’s at knee level and fits her body perfectly in a way that displayed her endowed shape. Ocholi tried to distract his head from looking at her, but he couldn’t. Her cologne filled the entire room and just when her voice came through his ears, he felt his heart palpitating to the rhythm of it. Her teeth looked scattered, yet produced a very sweet smile anyone would like to have a taste of, if solid.
    He jerked up on hearing Dahunsi’s husky voice. He hissed out loudly. He had gone into a fantasy world as the melodious voice of the lady that entered pierced his ear lobes. He opened his eyes to see she was gone.
    “What was that?” Dahunsi demanded, putting a serious look on his face.
    “What was what?” Ocholi feigned ignorance, sitting up on his seat.
    “Are you…”
    “In love? Yes. I am in love! Love at all sights.” Ocholi cut in before his friend could finish.
    “What? All sights or first sight? Kai! Ocholi, you are not serious!”
    “You are asking me ‘why’? That’s my new sales manager for God’s sake.” Dahunsi felt Ocholi was sounding unbelievable.
    “And so? At least, you are married to Beatrice with a son. Don’t you want me leaving the bachelor’s league anymore?” Ocholi rose his right eyebrow and lowered the other one.
    “I do. Of course. I mean… why not.” Dahunsi was stammering. “The thing is, she is new here, man and I even barely know her yet. I don’t know how to help you run this kind of parole.”
    Ocholi smiled, displaying his handsome self even more clearly.
    “I didn’t ask you to help me run any parole yet Mr Dahunsi.”
    Now the former looked even more confused. Thought Ocholi was sounding like he was swept off his feet by the lady that just left here? Why is he now acting indifferent all of a sudden?
    “I don’t understand you anymore, Ocholi.”
    “Just create a platform for us now and step back.” Ocholi said, winking knowingly at him.
    Dahunsi took in a deep breath as he picked up the intercom.
    “Yes. Mr Oluwadahunsi on the line. Please take everything you came to the office with and come back to my office immediately.”
    Ocholi smiled as he dropped the call.
    “Being a boss isn’t good for you at all. Don’t you think that was pretty too harsh?”
    Dahunsi covered his lips with his first finger when he heard the light knock on the door.
    “That was so fast.” He said as the lady walked in. This time holding her bag firmly in her hand.
    “You are the boss, sir.”
    “Dahunsi!” he corrected
    “OK! You are the boss, sir Dahunsi.”
    Everyone, including Ocholi, laughed at her little show of humour.
    “Alright. Meet Ocholi, my classmate at the federal university, Lokoja. He is currently undertaking his master degree abroad.” He stressed the ‘abroad’ and Ocholi felt embarrassed about it. More so that Dahunsi has never taken to mind the name of Ocholi’s school as he prefers the ‘abroad’ thing.
    “Don’t mind your boss. I am Ocholi.” Ocholi cut in before his friend would spoil everything for him, seeing his overexcitement. Ladies are ultimately turned off by any little show of pride, however minor it seems.
    “Nice to meet you, Mr Ocholi.” The lady stretched out her hand courteously and Ocholi took it.
    “You are really beautiful.” He added, while holding onto her hand.
    Dahunsi, at this point, didn’t know if he was interested in watching another episode of ‘the wedding party’ right now. He looked as his sale’s manager blushed carelessly while his friend kept leering eyes on her. Ocholi should be described as ‘beautiful’ really, and it’s as if the weather ‘abroad’ is really doing some more magic on him.
    Dahunsi cleared his throat and the both of them turned to face him.
    “Ocholi here would like to discuss something with you.” He said and Ocholi felt shocked at first but maintained himself, leaving no clue whatsoever. “So you can take the day off and resume back tomorrow.”
    Ocholi could see the confusion on her face but there was nothing he could do. It’s good to have a lady’s boss for a friend – on paving way for you. He smiled broadly as that mischievous thought popped in his head. He opened the car door for her and let her sit.
    “Don’t worry, I am not really taking your whole day. I have to be in Ankpa today.” Ocholi said as he joined her in the car.
    “Ankpa in Kogi state? That’s pretty far. You had better get going o, before it’s late.” She responded.
    “How did you know Ankpa is in Kogi state?” Ocholi demanded with shocked eyes.
    The lady smiled. Her smile is sensational.
    “Because I am a Kogite. An Igala.”
    “Now this is getting interesting. And don’t tell me you are my sister, because I need you for something much more than that.” Ocholi confessed.
    “Something much more than that? Something like what?” she demanded, her bold eyeballs looking straight into his. She has this charisma of an opened-eyed city lady.
    “OK. Alright? Can we start by equalising the game?” He t----t his car key into its hole and started it. He felt her questioning eyes staring unblinkingly back at him.
    “May I please know the name of this beauty that my eyes has been longing to see?”
    The lady smiled shyly. Ocholi is definitely getting her right buttons.
    “You try at flattery by the way.”
    Ocholi smiled. He didn’t know if that was supposed to be a compliment or an offence.
    “My name is Umali.” She added.
    Omachoko was pacing up and down the veranda in front of the house. Iye Ebi has been in there with his mother and Laibe for too long a time that he is beginning to get scared. He was at least wise enough when his mother gave birth to their last born who is now in secondary school. It didn’t take this long time. In fact, him and his father heard the cry of the baby few minutes after Iye Ebi went into the room. Whatever was delaying and prolonging this now was what he could not understand. The bad part is that no one was coming from the room to at least give progress report or anything of such. He has been hearing Laibe’s agonising screams and shouts from the room all along.
    Just then, the scream seemed to die down and he moved closer to the door leading into the room where they were. He felt the impulse to push the door open, but that would be very wrong, as men are customarily never allowed to see a woman in labour. What was he supposed to do now?
    The door opened and his heart beat increased greatly.
    His mother stepped out and did not just close the door firmly behind her, she stood as though she could prevent anyone from entering. She looked as worried as she was when she came to meet him at the parking lot earlier this morning, just that she looked even more helpless. Omachoko wished he could pull out all the words off the old woman’s throat but it’s not possible.
    After many minutes of deafening silence that felt like years to Omachoko, his mother finally spoke out.
    “I nukpahiu ki a bi no.” she was almost in tears. She said Laibe doesn’t have the power to push. She said it was a bad sign and if care is not taken, they may lose her.
    “God forbid!” Omachoko yelled before the last words were off his mother’s lips.
    He can’t lose her.
    She has to stay alive. She has to say Yes to his pending proposal. They have to get married and raise this baby alongside the others they would have together. He can’t bring himself to love another.
    He can’t bear the thoughts of losing Laibe.
    Not now. Not ever.
    An idea came into his mind. Maybe he should drive Laibe down to the nearest hospital. He hadn’t liked the idea of giving birth in the house. It wasn’t even right to start with. What if complications arose? Where would be the next place to run to? That’s why mother and child mortality rate is on the increase in rural areas.
    “Why didn’t I think this earlier? Why didn’t I take her when she was just starting the labour?” He blamed his head for not thinking smartly when needed.
    Now it’s too late. It’s d--n too risky too.
    He turned to his mother, she had tears in her eyes.
    Just when he was about to open his mouth, he heard a loud sharp scream from inside the room. The scream came very loud and sharp and died down almost immediately.
    His mother returned his questioning gaze with a more confused one. Without wasting any more time, he pushed her away from the door and entered the room.
    D--n all restrictions.
    To be continued…

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    “Good evening viewers.
    It’s another great time on your best TV show – FROM BROKENNESS.
    It is not just a good time for me here but a rare privilege to be sited face to face with this awesome and breath-taking great mind. Someone that has made Nigeria, Kogi state, and Igala land in particular proud. I must not forget to state here that it’s because of the love this awesome personality has for this generation that the opportunity was granted us. So we would be having an interactive tim as usual, and you can send us your questions via mail to the address on your screen and can also call any of the numbers.
    So, let’s begin. Good evening Noble one.”
    “Good evening…”
    Udale lowered the volume of the TV immediately she entered the sitting room. First, she thought Matthew was being unreasonable by not reducing the loud volume from the TV, then she got closer and realised the remote was far from his reach. Even though his wheel chair was just beside the chair he was laying on, he couldn’t possibly lift himself into it without her help.
    Matthew smiled as she came back to sit on the stool beside the settee he’s lying on. She handed the remote over to him and readjusted his head onto the pillow.
    “Mummy, I want to wear my shades.” The four year old boy ran over to Udale, thrusting the plastic eyeglasses in his hands on her legs. “Please wear it for me! Please wear it for me.”
    “No. Ocholi, you cannot wear sunglasses in the night.” Udale protested.
    The little boy frowned. “I want to wear it to watch aunt’s show. Wear it for me. Mummy wear it for me…”
    The boy’s hesitation was beginning to get on her nerves.
    “OK! My cute boy! Do you still wanna play Temple Run?” She needed to distract him.
    “Yes Mummy!” He screamed excitedly, obviously forgetting his initial sunglasses mission.
    “OK. Take my phone from my room. Take it to yours, stay on your bed and play it.”
    Ocholi ran off and up the stairs before Udale could finish her last statement. Little children. She never let him handle her phone, ever since she discovered he would always run down her phone’s battery in a bid to play TEMPLE RUN, but she needed to do this now. She needed to wave off all forms of distractions as it seems Matthew was very interested in the TV show tonight.
    Why wouldn’t he be?
    God knows Udale wasn’t in support of this ‘on air’ thing.
    “You really have to make everyone think I’ve snubbed your emails all these while?”
    The presenter laughed at this response.
    Whether said literally or not, she knows that the guest in front of her has snubbed her mails over and over again. Being a celebrity, it’s permitted to be busy though.
    “Many ladies build potentials, in tailoring, in make-up, in event planning. In many other things. When the grand winner for the International Idol Arts festival was announced and Laibe Godwin the winner, I was left to wonder, a woman? Painting? So I would want to ask you ma’am, why Arts? Or better still, why did you chose Fine Arts?”
    Laibe smiled shyly as the bright studio light came all over her glowing face. Her natural hair was packed into a ponytail and held to the sides by a glistering red pin to march the white flare gown she had on. Her face was without any artificial touch yet everyone could see beams of beauty radiating from her eyes.
    “Uhhhhm! Now, that’s a big question.” She turned to the presenter and they both laughed lightly. “Well, I think the best person to answer that question for me would be Ocholi Onoja. You see, he is not here to defend me now o.” Laibe sounded really jovial as she spoke.
    “But on a serious note, Ocholi, much more than being my Uncle’s younger brother, brought out the artist in me. I got to realise that art is life. That one can truly communicate better the state of one’s heart by a simple representation on paper – be it writing, drawing or painting.”
    The presenter nodded, all smiles.
    “Wow! Art is life! Caught that. Again ma’am, how did you learn about this competition that brought you into limelight?”
    “Eerhmmm! This painting that’s bought and priced highly all over the world now was first done over five years ago.”
    “Yes. I was going through a horrible situation and couldn’t tell anyone so I decided to sketch it. One night Ocholi saw the painting and held onto it. The first time he visited me in the village after he learnt I got pregnant, he brought out the painting with sophisticated tools and demanded we do a better painting of the art concept. This I reluctantly did. He made me do it about two more times after that, alongside others. I didn’t know what he was up to. He was still running a Master degree abroad then.” Laibe narrated, keeping the smile glued to her face like a plaster.
    “You mean to tell us Ma’am that Ocholi entered you into the competition?” The presenter cut in.
    “I couldn’t have done that all by myself. I was a shadow of myself after I had Ocholi. I didn’t think I could amount to anything again so I gave up all the dreams that I ever had. At some points, I didn’t even know where my phone was, how could I have possibly seen advert to enter into any competition?”
    “After you had Ocholi?”
    Laibe could feel the confusion clearly in the presenter’s voice.
    “I named my son Ocholi, after the big Ocholi, of course. Big Ocholi used to be my crush the first time I came to Ankpa. My little boy is a little over four years now.”
    “Wow. Wow. Wow. So, Mrs Laibe Godwin-Ekele, sorry if I didn’t get the pronunciation well…”
    Laibe smiled. “It’s fine!”
    “We don’t mean to penetrate your private life, but who knows? They may be someone out there that needs hope and needs life. Can you tell us about the part where you were abused as a young girl and became pregnant at 16?”
    Laibe took in a deep breath. She had deliberately avoided interviews and TV shows because of moments like this. Apart from the fact that she doesn’t ever want to revisit her past, she feels it would be dragging her uncle’s name in the mud whenever she tells the whole world about it. The amazing thing was that it’s her uncle that insisted she accept this particular interview invitation. Even when Laibe and her aunty protested, uncle Matthew insisted she goes on air and also that she should tell the story when asked. How to go about it now was an uphill task for her.
    She cleared her throat.
    “No problem if you cannot answer it, Ma’am!” the presenter’s voice came, seeing she was taking so much time.
    “It’s fine. My uncle was a paedophile, or so did the doctors say. Did I say ‘was’? Well, I don’t know if there is any graduation from it as it’s a sexual orientation. All I know is that I started being sexually abused right from my first term holiday in JS 1, I was about thirteen years old then. It, however, only got out in my last days at JS3, over two years later. I was so demoralised by my grandfather’s death that I almost lost my mind in the process. It was in combating with that situation, speaking to a psychotherapist and my eventual pregnancy that brought it out.” She wiped a teardrop off her face.
    “I can’t say I know how you feel, partly because I haven’t been a victim of abuse before and as well, it’s too close a family member to even imagine.”
    “What is the greatest pain you have felt in your lifetime?” Laibe asked the presenter and that almost sent the latter off balance.
    “Me? Well, I guess it would be menstrual pain.”
    Laibe smiled.
    “I don’t know how menstrual pain feels like, but I know labour pains. At a point I thought I would die and I actually almost did. I couldn’t push and was losing blood. Having the baby eventually was a big miracle. That… that labour pain was nothing compared to the pain an abused child feels. It’s a silent killer sort of pain.”
    She stole a glance at the presenter who was getting lost in her deep words but continued.
    “Well, it’s so painful. Imagine groups of people simultaneously drilling into different parts of your bones and joints with rusty tools, not caring about how painful it is and how deadly the tools could be to your systems? Then your mouth is firmly sealed, so much so that you can only scream within your brain? That’s how the mild pain of abuse is for a child. You feel as though your whole world is crumbling and keeps shattering even as you make efforts to gather them together.”
    The presenter took in a very deep breath. She wasn’t sounding as sharp as before again.
    “What is your take on laws and orders with respect to child abuse and molestation?”
    Laibe smiled, in spite of herself.
    “I may not be in the best position to say anything regarding that. Medicine is justifying a lot of actions. I mean, you can’t sentence someone with paraphilia to jail, because everyone believes he abused the child due to his mental case but the sensitization has to take roots from the family before bearing fruits upwards. If you know what I mean. No one should be overlooked when it comes to potentials to abuse. Family members have to care more for one another and be sensitive enough to realise a misnomer, a cold attitude, and any change in the atmosphere as quick as it comes.” Laibe said.
    “What makes abused children not able to voice out?”
    Laibe shot a look at the presenter and she readjusted immediately. She wanted to continue but Laibe cut her short
    “No problem, this would be the last question I would answer regarding abuse.” She says firmly and the presenter nodded.
    “Well, I may not know about others but in my own case, I already had issues with acceptance prior to the time. Having my uncle accept me all of a sudden was more than heaven for me. A lot of abused children most times don’t feel accepted by their peers, and even by their own family members, so much so that they welcome love and affection shown them by anybody at all. You would agree with me that everyone wants to feel loved. Whenever, as a victim of molestation, you want to voice out, something makes you afraid of losing the love and affection you have come to enjoy from this particular person, and that keeps everything you have to say back inside.”
    “OK! That’s…”
    “And…” Laibe cut in again and continued. “…gradually, not being able to voice out moves from fear of losing a ‘seemingly only’ loved one to fear from the diverse threats they would be receiving. But in all, if we pay closer attention to our family, much more than work, career, and the general vigorous pursuits of life, we would be able to tell when things are going wrong or not. It’s that simple. Let us, as parents, hear our little children out. Let’s not be nonchalant, thinking all is well. Let’s try to cut off on some of our busy schedules and create ample time to converse with these children. They probably have so much to say, yet no one to say it to. We all need to stay vigilant to pursue and stop abuse.”
    “Thank you very much, Ma’am!”
    “Laibe!” She corrected the presenter. “I just turned twenty-one three months ago for Christ sake. Don’t make me feel like a granny yet. My husband won’t hear of it.” Laibe joked and the other lady laughed.
    “Now concerning your husband, how were you able to grow past the pain and possibly hatred you must have developed for men over time before meeting him?”
    “You are really asking personal questions, yeah?” Laibe smiled. “Anyway, I have always known Omachoko, I guess since I was born. When I was a local girl in the village and could barely speak a correct line in English Language, he was one not to laugh at me but rather encourage me. He has always claimed to be in love with me right from that time, till I went to Ankpa and even after all these incidents saga, he still could propose to me while carrying another man’s baby. What manner of love can be more than that again?”
    The presenter smiled as Laibe turned to her, as though demanding an answer.
    “You know, I actually had this thick bitterness tied in a nylon of hatred sitting somewhere to the left side of my chest. The bitterness was for men. I remember how Helen Obinna, my closest friend at Aleka Academy, Ankpa then, kept wondering why I easily get disgusted with guys. In fact, I hated anyone with the slightest resemblance to manhood. It was that bad, but Omachoko was different. Omachoko has been the medicine there is to my soul. He made me heal faster than anything else could. When I was done weaning Ocholi, he enrolled me back in a senior secondary school in Abuja here where he now works. Trust me, I was the oldest in the class, but to what do I care. Moreover, my little stature didn’t give away my age that quickly. I just started school of nursing seven weeks ago. It seems everything has fallen in shape for me, after all. I will finally become a nurse… a celebrity nurse now because of this award.”
    She winked at the presenter.
    “Yes Laibe. You are really a celebrity and I must tell you that a lot of people, young molested and abused ones have drawn so much inspiration from your story. Out of the broken pieces of one’s life, one can still reach the destination he/she desires. Only learn to stretch and allow room for healing.”
    Laibe smiled.
    “You wanna shout out to your loved ones?” The presenter demanded and Laibe nodded in the affirmative.
    “All glory to God who preserved my life in that labour room. It was a miracle, I keep saying that over and over again. I thank God for my husband, Mr Omachoko Ekele, he has been a rock standing solidly beside me through all the hurdles. I appreciate my lifetime friend, Ocholi. I would have still had more crush on him if my childhood wasn’t taken away from me that early.” She smiled and continued immediately. “My cute son, Ocholi – he is my greatest asset ever. I also thank God for my uncle Matthew and aunty Udale. They’ve done a lot for me, even for keeping and taking care of my son right now means a whole lot. For Helen Obinna, she is currently studying Medicine in Ukraine, we both wanted to be doctors together. I appreciate her big for pushing me to study. I appreciate my best friends, Umali and Ebi, crazy girls. We were an unbreakable triad as innocent girls but now the wind of life has blown everyone to different places. I simply thank God for everything, my fans, the media, my art centre and for everyone I’ve met in my little life. I’ve had a lot to learn from each situation and condition.”
    “We appreciate you greatly, Ma’am. Sorry, Laibe, pardon me. You are too noble to be addressed by your first name.” Laibe blushed at that statement. “Any last words for friends, family and fans out there?”
    “Everyone out there who have heard, read and possibly experienced my story, I want to leave you with these words by one of the notable great men ever. He said,
    The one thing you think you can do better than everyone else – go out and do that.
    The light shining out of your eyes should blind people.
    You should be on fire all the time.
    Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.
    Stay hopeful. Remember, there is always sunshine after rain.”
    “Hey Goddess, I could hear this sound from the estate gate.”
    “Oh! Eehen! So I shouldn’t watch my sister’s show again because I live in an estate?” Jane retorted, throwing her hands carelessly while she spoke.
    “C’mon Goddess. I’m sorry!” Dr Max said, dropping his car keys and squatting to kiss Jane’s protruded stomach. “How is my little princess doing today?” He was addressing the stomach.
    “Of all days to come home horribly late, Max? We had an agreement. Look here right, it’s not fair. You didn’t let me work ever since the wedding and this pregnancy just gave you a good point to hold onto. It’s more than three years now that I’m stuck in this room all day like sardine. I’m hell bored. Especially when you come to your house this late.” She rattled on and on.
    “I know this is about my missing Laibe’s show, right? You know, I didn’t really miss it. It was playing in the hospital’s common room, only that I was quite busy attending to an emergency patient. That is even why I came this late. I’m sorry, Goddess!” He pulled himself upwards and planted a soft kiss on her left cheek.
    Jane smiled. “So, how is the patient now?”
    She sounded like she mused those words through her nose instead.
    Max felt relieved she finally smiled. “Well, he is there. Should be fine soon. How was your sister’s show?”
    “Epic. Thank God we didn’t lose this girl during that scary labour. I blame Omachoko for letting a local midwife attend to Laibe in the first place.”
    Max undid his tie and sat on the handle of the chair.
    “The only thing I’m grateful for was that Laibe didn’t develop obstetric fistula. I mean, the labour was prolonged and dangerously long enough for that to happen. I guess the young lady is a strong woman in her own right.”
    “Yes o. That’s why my daughter has to grow up and marry her son, Ocholi.” Jane said, sounding serious. She flashed a glance at Max’s face and she knew what was up.
    “Hey! C’mon, I was only joking.” She tried to tickle him.
    Max got up, dropped the nylon he’s been holding on the table.
    “That’s the goddess’ appeasement, as usual.” He blurted out and started walking away.
    “Max! Stop being unreasonable na. It was merely a joke.” Jane dragged herself up and tried to follow after him.
    Max turned to face her with red shot eyes. At times, Jane wonders why those particular words get at him this much. He had warned her not to say that over and over again. Typical Jane! She doesn’t follow simple instructions.
    “Nothing is more unreasonable than betrothing my beautiful unborn daughter to a product of an abuse, Jane. Nothing.” He said coldly and entered into the bedroom.
    Jane paused involuntarily and her eyeballs widened. So wide, it could rival the size of ShopRite’s doughnut. First was about him calling her ‘Jane’ and then the other part.
    “Children born as a result of abuse are children and should be treated as normal as that. No one determines how he or she should be born, we can only determine how we should live.” She called out after Max, forcefully opening the door and storming in to meet him.
    Matthew turned off the television as the presenter was wrapping up the show. He tried to stand up but remembered he needed his wife’s help to do virtually everything he needed to do, including taking his bath. Maybe it would have been better if he died than living like a vegetable and a liability on the poor woman like this, after all she has been through.
    “I told you not to let her go on air.”
    Matthew smiled as his wife’s voice came up. She’s been crying all through the show obviously.
    “It’s part of her healing process, Udale. If she could speak about it freely then we are rest assured that she is healing and moving on.” He counted every of the words.
    “What about the bad name it’s bringing to you. What about your reputation that’s dragging in the mud?” Udale queried, trying to stable her breaking voice.
    “I spoilt my name the very first time I yielded to the temptation of sleeping with my wife’s niece. I dragged my name in the mud with my own hand when I molested her secretly and subjected her young heart to untold hardship and torture in silence. I made a mess of my own self when I made her the wife I never married.”
    That confusing phrase again.
    Well, now Udale sees how one can be wife without being married.
    She quickly grabbed Matthew’s hand and held it tightly to her chest as she cried.
    “I’m so proud of you, woman!”
    Laibe quickly turned around to see Omachoko. He hasn’t stopped calling her ‘woman’, he may never stop even. She hugged the presenter and shook hands with the other technical crew that accompanied her out of the studio, and dismissed them. They had to lead her through the back door because a good number of people, journalists, bloggers and newsmen alike were outside waiting for her to step out before they would launch their questions on her. Laibe had stated clearly that she wouldn’t be talking to any other member of the press again and that was why she waited for her husband to come pick her.
    “Guess who I came with?” Omachoko said, immediately they were left alone in the conference room of the Channel’s TV building.
    Laibe jerked back as Umali hurriedly opened the door and practically jogged into the room. They ran into each other’s arms and stayed in that hug for quite a while.
    “I’m proud of you, Lee!” Umali said, releasing herself from the hug.
    “Indeed! We are more proud of you, Umali. Everybody is talking about your textile designs. Just few years at an Arts studio, and you now design fabrics?” Laibe sounded unbelieving.
    “What can the righteous do na, babe? Lagos has taught us how to hustle noni.” Umali made them laugh.
    “What are you doing in Abuja and where is prince charming?” Laibe relaxed more into Omachoko’s arms as she asked this.
    “You are telling them on air that I was your crush, huh? You want Umali to break your little head for you!” Ocholi said, bumping into their discussion from outside.
    Everyone laughed.
    Ocholi would never stop being funny in his life.
    “Break Laibe’s head on top of man? Can you listen to yourself?” Umali retorted.
    “Oh! You can break it on top of woman, right? Oga ‘Choko, tell them it’s now sixteen years in prison without bail o.” Ocholi motioned to the Omachoko that couldn’t curtail his laughter.
    “Shooo! Better person jare…” Umali dragged Laibe from Omachoko’s hands. “You know Ebi is so good in her tailoring business now, right? After that her abusive husband was put behind bars for three months – the last time he beat her sore, he had to let her live. Ebi now has her tailoring place there in Kaduna, all thanks to alhaja. So I use her as my stylist. I design and make the textiles and she makes them into admirable styles to be worn by my models for adverts.”
    “Ebi makes those adorable styles we see on Glamz Magazine? How wonderful. Why didn’t you ladies tell me all these while?” Laibe queried, feigning anger.
    “Because you are now a celebrity o. An international one for that matter, don’t relate with all these local champions again o.” Ocholi cut in on them.
    Umali ran over to him and reached out her fist for his chest but he held it back.
    “Why are you always looking for Umali’s trouble, Ocholi?” Omachoko spoke out of laughter finally.
    “Because she is my property and mine alone.”
    Umali eyeballed him coldly. “God know say I still de single. I am no one’s property. It’s not by how many years you know somebody that makes you his property na.”
    Everyone started laughing again.
    “I hope you enjoyed your so-called singleness, cos it’s elapsing tonight. And I didn’t say it includes your role as the sales manager for Wale’s arts studio, what is the name again?” he pointed questioning eyes at Umali but didn’t let her answer before continuing. “ I wasn’t also referring to your position as the CEO of UMALITE TEXTILES. I am only saying your singleness elapses tonight.”
    Ocholi stopped as he saw everyone looking at him like he had lost his mind.
    “What are you blabbing about, Ocholi?” Laibe called out to him.
    “Blabbing? Won’t you commend me for risking my fine life to be with this trouble maker?” Ocholi pecked Umali’s cheek quickly and withdrew like he stole it. The latter slapped him on the shoulder.
    “You see what I am saying? She is showing herself already. I was just thinking of asking her to be my wife now o, but I changed my mind.”
    They laughed again. He continued,
    “I changed my mind because I don’t want you to only be my wife but I need you to be my air, Umali. I love you so much, I can’t live without you.” He drew very close to her and wrapped one hand round her waist while the other went into his pocket.
    Laibe and Omachoko’s eyes popped open when Ocholi brought out a ring box from his pocket. It’s about time.
    Umali felt like crying as Ocholi’s eyes stared deeply at her.
    “Don’t even think I’ll go down on any useless one knee. Better take this ring and wear it on… on which finger again? Just wear it quickly before I change my mind again.”
    Laibe and Omachoko kept staring at the strangest form of wedding proposal they’ve ever seen. Umali was smiling broadly through her tears.
    “Hey! OK! I’ve changed my mind again. Everyone here now feels I am insane.” Ocholi said, looking at the presenter that just stepped in. The young woman must have come to see what was going on. They’ve probably spent so much time here as it were.
    “I have changed my mind. Umali, I don’t just need you to be my air anymore; be my medicine, cure my insanity, give me everything I need.”
    Umali covered her mouth with her two hands.
    THE END.
    Thank you everyone for following the story to this time. I hope you weren’t disappointed? Not tragedy, right? Thanks to Grace for sharing the story with us..

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