Opening the door gently, I wasn’t quite sure how I would find Anuli. I had half prepared myself to find her trashing the room in her blinded rage, or wailing her eyes out on the bed. What I hadn’t expected to see was her sitting serenely on the floor, her legs crossed and eyes closed, in a yoga stance.
“Anuli…” I called out tentatively. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” was her terse answer.
Not put off by her coldness, I sat on the bed beside her. “Did that guy hurt you? Did he attack you before?”
She snorted. “Attack how?! Did you see him at all? Does he look like someone who can attack anybody?”
At that point, all I wanted to do was throw my hands up in the air in surrender.
“So what on earth is your problem?!” I exclaimed. “The other day at the bar, you went as white as a ghost at the sight of him. Today, you turned into a raving lunatic. Are you aware you broke some of Aunt Ekwi’s most cherished pieces of crockery?!”
“Those belonged to my mother…just like almost everything in this blasted house!” Anuli muttered in response. “Look, Golibe, leave that matter. It’s not the reason we’re here. As we are now, we are better off focusing all our energy trying to figure out our next step, especially since we couldn’t get any answers in Onitsha!”
And with that, she shut her eyes in dismissal, leaving me with no choice but to leave things alone. She actually was right. We…or rather, I…had more than enough to worry about already, without having to include the James’ matter to my list.
Leaving her alone, I retreated to the balcony to meditate and people watch. It was such a big but under utilised house, I couldn’t help but marvel how Aunty Ekwi had lived there alone…and for so long too. Even though it had been more of Anuli’s parents’ house towards the end of their lives, especially with the relocation and death of their siblings, as Awele had chosen to live far away, and as their brothers rarely visited from their Port Harcourt, Eket and Lagos locations, the house had pretty much become all Ekwi’s.
I was still there, pondering what my possible next step would be in the search for my more and more elusive parents, when my phone rang.
“I have been waiting and waiting for your call, beautiful Golibe.” came Amobi’s silky smooth voice. “You shouldn’t do that to a man…and a doctor especially. I was barely able to concentrate all day today.”
I smiled and leaned back in the cane chair. I truthfully hadn’t noticed time fly by so swiftly, or even the fact that it had started to get dark.
“I’m really sorry. Lots of stuff going on here.” I answered.
“I’ll forgive you…only because talking to you now is like pouring cold water on hot, parched soil.” he flirted, as was now characteristic for him. “I want to see you.”
I sighed. “It’s already late. I’m not sure my Aunty will be let me leave the house…”
“Five minutes of your time, Golibe. Five minutes and I’ll release you.” he said. “I’m parked very near your house, so they won’t even notice you’re gone.”
I looked around tentatively. The house was extremely quiet, meaning Anuli was probably still meditating or sleeping in the room, and Aunty Ekwi was…well…Aunty Ekwi was probably doing whatever it is she did in her private quarters.
“Five minutes!” I repeated, more to convince myself than him.
“I’m parked a few feet away from the woman who sells rubber slippers, just in front of that uncompleted building.”
I nodded, knowing exactly where. Terminating the call and rising to my feet, I briefly toyed with the idea of going to apply some makeup, or even change my clothes, but I decided against it. I didn’t want to rouse Anuli’s suspicion. Besides, it would only be 5 minutes…
Quietly exiting the house, I walked down the street adjacent to ours, and spotted his silver Honda Accord from a distance. Amobi was leaning on it, and smiling. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered at the sight of him. He was in a snug t-shirt and dark blue jeans, but he looked even more handsome than my memory of him from Sunday. Even in the dark, his hazel-almost-green eyes glinted and his magnificently toned body was resplendent. He was pure perfection.
“You are such a sight for sore eyes.” he said, reaching for my hand.
I blushed and giggled shyly. “You don’t look too bad yourself.”
“Golibe! Asa mpete!” he brought my hand to his lips. “You are just too beautiful for words! Since I met you on Sunday, I haven’t been able to think straight.”
I smiled and withdrew my hand from his grip, less because I was offended but more because I feared my knees would buckle from how weak they had suddenly gone. Standing there with him, I felt so light headed, I could barely stand. It was amazing how, after 7 years with Dozie, he had never, ever made me feel that way.
If I had been asked a mere week before, I would have thought I was deeply in love with him. But now, I wasn’t so sure. There had been nothing romantic about the way we’d met, Dozie and I. We had been standing shoulder to shoulder in the school library, both of us looking for the same classic literature books by any of the The Brontë Sisters. Our hands had reached for Villette by Charlote Brontë, and we had both started laughing. I was in my 1st year…and he was in his 3rd, getting ready to graduate.
“Nice body art.” he’d said to me.
Even though I’d had my tattoos for about 3 years prior, I had recently started feeling self conscious about them. So hearing this fine looking, rich looking, polished guy compliment them was all the assurance that I needed. It hadn’t even mattered to me how high pitched his voice was. I had fallen for him right away.
But standing in front of Amobi, whatever I had felt for Dozie was like child’s play.
“Let’s get in, so we can talk better.” he said to me, opening the car door. “I’m sure you won’t let me drive you anywhere.”
“Five minutes, remember?” I managed to croak, even though I knew we were going to be there much longer than 5 minutes. “So…I hear you’re not from here.”
He smiled and shook his head. “I grew up in Enugu…but my folks are from Abia state. I schooled in Ibadan, served in Zamfara, worked in Port Harcourt for a bit…before my Uncle got me a job here.”
“You’ve been around quite a lot. How come you chose to settle here…and not Abuja, Lagos…or even Asaba?” I asked, curious.
“I could have. I had offers from some big hospitals there. I still get those offers even now…” he shrugged. “I like it here. I’m gaining a lot of hands-on experience here. The kind of experience that I’ll need when I’m ready to establish my own hospital in a few years. I’ve set a personal deadline of achieving that by the time I’m 40, so I have about 5 more years to go.”
I frowned at that piece of information. For some reason, I’d thought he was younger, especially after he’d made the reference about Anuli being older than he was…when he was clearly the older one.
“Am I too old for you?” he asked, as if reading my mind.
Looking at him, I went breathless again. He could have been 55 years old, and would still have that effect on me.
“Do you know any James?” I asked, desperate to douse the rising heat…and also find out about Anuli’s mysterious guy.
He frowned. “James? James what?”
I suddenly felt stupid. “To be honest, I don’t know his surname. A dark skinned guy…about your age, I guess.”
He shook his head. “That’s a pretty vague description, but right now. nobody comes to mind. Why?”
I shook my head. “Just some guy that came by the house to see Anuli, that’s all.”
“Ah, in that case, it could be anyone from any of the towns in this axis!” he chuckled. “That your cousin has spread her dragnet far and wide.”
I didn’t laugh along with him, feeling suddenly protective of Anuli.
“So, apart from being a stellar doctor, tell me about yourself.” I changed the subject. “You say your folks are from Abia, but there is clearly some mixed parentage somewhere.”
“Would you believe it if I told you the only thing ‘mixed’ about me is the fact that my parents come from different villages? I’m 100% Nigerian.” he laughed. “I know, I know. The eyes abi? For many generations, all the men in my family have been born this way, fair skinned and brown eyed. Maybe some of my ancestors got freaky with some of the early missionaries.”
“Wow! It’s really uncanny!” I marvelled.
“It’s a pity that the ladies in my family aren’t as lucky. My sisters are very dark skinned, just like my mom.”
I arched a brow. “Why is that a pity? Are dark skinned women less beautiful than light skinned ones?”
“Golibe, I can be politically correct and say no, but we both know that’s not the truth.” he chuckled. “You want to tell me you don’t know you have an advantage over Anuli? You want to tell me you don’t know you’re the first one men will look at if you are both standing side by side.”
“No, I don’t think that at all. On the contrary, I think Anuli is extremely beautiful.” I answered truthfully, not even patronising my cousin.
“Let’s agree to disagree on that topic. Anuli isn’t even that dark skinned.” he said, before leaning closer to me. “Besides, even the most beautiful of the beautiful would have difficulty competing with you.”
Our eyes locked and my stomach butterflies went crazy again. Before I knew it, his lips were on mine, and I felt myself melt like butter. His kiss was neither gentle nor rough, and his tongue prodded a bit more than I was used to, but I was intoxicated nonetheless…intoxicated by his very being.
But when I felt his hand slide down from my shoulder to my chest, I withdrew immediately.
“I apologise. I know I’m going a little too fast.” he said, smiling. “With you, I just can’t think straight.”
I nodded, struggling to catch my breath. “I really must go…”
He held my hand. “Just a few more minutes…please.”
I obliged him, and we sat in silence in his car for a while.
“So…what brings you to Ogwashi?” he asked, breaking the silence.
I pondered over the wisdom of telling him, but realised I had nothing to lose. Not only could he possibly point me in the right direction, if he was going to be a part of my life…and from the look of things, he was…he might as well know the truth about me.
“I’m here to find my birth parents…” I said, before telling him all about the search that had brought me to town, and all the leads I had been chasing so far.
He frowned when I was done. “That’s a hard one. A very hard one.” he said, deep in thought. “Especially as all the people who could have given you answers seem to be dead. And not only that, your folks had left Ogwashi long before they got you. If the people in Onicha-Ugbo or Onitsha have no answers for you, it will be a very tall order, I have to be honest with you.”
I felt myself deflate, hearing the verbal confirmation of my own fears.
“But I’ll ask around for you as well. I’ll do a bit of subtle digging. I meet a lot of people, so I’ll find a way to get answers.” he said reassuringly. “Anything for my beautiful Golibe.”
I smiled and our eyes met again. I half wished he would kiss me again, but he didn’t.
“It looks like Duke is hot on you as well.” he said instead, smiling.
I was momentarily confused by the change in subject. “No…no, he isn’t. We just exchange greetings anytime I’m on my run. He’s friends with my cousins.” Even as I said it, I knew the term ‘friends’ was a stretch for Anuli and Duke.
“I’ve known Duke since he returned to town a few years ago, and I’ve never seen him look at a woman that way.” he chuckled. “The poor guy should go and sit down somewhere, because he’s no competition for me.”
“What do you know about him?” I asked, my interest about the mysterious Duke piqued again.
“I know he was a hot shot in the UK…an Investment Banker, or something like that…until he suffered a nervous breakdown, and was brought back home.” he answered.
“Nervous breakdown? Was it drugs?”
“No. Not drugs at all. I was on the team that treated him when he returned. The guy was as clean as a whistle, drug-wise.” Amobi answered. “He just…broke down. The word on the streets was that it was because of his wife…but it could have been anything. It could even have been hereditary.”
“His mother, I’m told, has a long history of mental illness. In fact, I hear she had a phenomenal breakdown several years ago. But she managed to recover, and was back to her old self again.” he answered. “But her son’s illness set her back, and just as soon as she nursed him back to health, she suffered a monumental one that still has her bed-ridden till today.” he leaned forward, obviously enjoying the gossip. “To be honest with you, I think that’s the reason he is still here…taking care of his mother. He is in good health now. There is no reason why he shouldn’t have returned to his former life in the UK.”
I marvelled, as the penny dropped. “You mean he is still in Ogwashi, just because of his mother?”
Amobi nodded, before laughing and raising his hands. “But don’t quote me oh! Maybe he is still here because he can’t afford to return.”
Just then, my phone started to ring, making me panic, thinking it was Anuli. I frowned when I saw it was Dozie. Dozie of all people. Someone that said he wouldn’t call until I was done with my search. Without thinking, I ended the call.
Amobi noticed and smiled. “That’s better.” and then leaning forward again, his lips took mine again.
Catch up on Golibe’s story here:
- Golibe 1: The Journey
- Golibe 2: Brave
- Golibe 3: Blood Relative
- Golibe 4: Strangers
- Golibe 5: Fill the Gaps
- Golibe 6: Awele
- Golibe 7: Frolicking
- Golibe 8: The Trunk
- Golibe 9: Retrace my steps
- Golibe 10: The Exchange
- Golibe 11: Quoting Shakespeare
- Golibe 12: Dead End
- Golibe 13: Something in the Water