I sat in fright, watching as Amobi drove like a bat out of hell, his face a mask of rage. I was too afraid to even utter a word, as the car careened past places of the town that were familiar to me, into lonely, unfamiliar territory. I wrapped myself tighter in Duke’s floral shirt, which was still draped around my shoulders, drawing from it comfort and reassurance. Surely, there was no way Amobi was going to do anything stupid.
Suddenly, and without warning, the car screeched to a halt. I looked around me, and saw that we were in the middle of nowhere, in deep woodland. That was when I really started to get scared.
“Where are we, Amobi?” I asked, finally finding my voice.
He glared at me. “You are not coughing, you are breathing fine, your voice isn’t hoarse…so you clearly have no signs of smoke inhalation. You also don’t have any physical burns…” he muttered. “So why on earth were you in that fool’s arms, clinging to him like a prostitute?!”
My mouth hung open, shocked at his outburst. “I was traumatised! I still am! I was surrounded by fire…”
“Bullshit!” he shouted. “That’s no excuse for your behaviour? Didn’t I tell you I don’t want him around you? Didn’t I?!” he shouted. “But yet, here you are, and still with his God-forsaken shirt on your body!” and with that, he yanked Duke’s shirt off my shoulders and threw it out the car window.
“You didn’t have to do that. Duke was just being helpful…” I bleated.
“You and I know that couldn’t be farther than the truth!” he shook his head and laughed. “And to think I allowed you play me for a mugu all these weeks, with your ‘I’m a virgin’ bullshit!”
I looked at him, hurt. “But I am…”
“Oh spare me! I actually blame myself for falling for your lies! How could I believe a street girl like you could actually be saving herself for marriage?!” he retorted. “You are nothing but a harlot, and your actions today have proved that.”
In a flash, my hand connected with his face in a resounding slap. He glared at me, before stunning me with two slaps of his own.
“Today, I’m going to take everything I should have taken a long time ago!” he growled, coming on top of me with the speed of light. For someone with his build, he had more strength than I gave him credit for. I struggled frantically, but his strength was too much for me.
“Amobi, please! Please, stop this!” I wailed, before being silenced by his rough kiss, as his hands roamed my body. I punched, flailed, struggled and kicked, but he, all of a sudden, seemed to have the strength of a thousand men. I screamed beneath his kiss, as he tore open my dress, reaching for my breasts underneath my bra. As his hands went underneath my dress, and started pulling at my underwear, I struggled with everything that was in me. But everything seemed to be all in vain. It was evident that Amobi was about to have his way with me. He was about to take my virginity.
Just as my panties were sliding down my thighs, bright light shone into the car.
“Doctor! Doctor, na you be dis?!” came a gruff voice from outside.
Amobi looked up, startled. Taking advantage of his disorientation, I pushed him off me, opened the door and fell out of the car, holding the tattered remains of my dress. I didn’t even care that I was in the midst of over a dozen rough looking young men. To me, they posed less harm to me than the man inside the car who had almost raped me.
“What?! Golibe?!” exclaimed a familiar voice.
I looked up from where I was crouched on the ground, and saw the face of our village Olisa, the one who had driven Anuli and I to Onicha-Ugbo. From the look on his face, he looked anything but amused. He removed the sports jacket he was wearing, and quickly used it to cover my decency. As Amobi tried to drive off, another of the guys reached into the car and removed the key from the ignition.
“O di ka ichoro inwu!” Olisa growled, pulling the now frightened Amobi out of the car. “It’s like you have a death wish! You had the guts to try to attack my Golibe? Ah, you have died today!”
One of the bulky men held Amobi down, as Olisa kicked him ferociously. I knew if I didn’t do something, we would have a murder on our hands.
“Olisa, please!” I screamed, running up to him. “Please! Leave him alone, I beg you.”
Olisa stopped kicking and looked at me, just as the other guys decided to take off from where he left off, descending on Amobi themselves.
“Olisa, please tell them to stop!” I screamed frantically. “Please, stop!”
Olisa glared at me for a few minutes, before raising his hand, prompting the other guys to stop their attack. With one last angry kick, he spat at Amobi. “Get out of here, fool!”
Amobi scampered into his car like a mouse let loose from a trap, and sped off, leaving behind a cloud of dust.
When he was gone, Olisa walked up to me, tenderness all over his face. “Are you hurt? Did he hurt you?”
I shook my head, grateful that, save for the slaps and pawing of my breasts, Amobi hadn’t been able to wreak any real havoc.
Guiding me to my feet, he led me to a car parked a few feet away, the other guys with him parting like the red sea as we passed. Olisa, from the look of things, was their ring leader. It was the same Land Rover we rode to Onicha-Ugbo, and the moment I lay on the back seat, I closed my eyes and blacked out.
By the time I opened my eyes, I was lying on my bed at home, and my head was throbbing with pain.
“Ah, thank God!” Anuli exclaimed. “I was beginning to contemplate calling back the doctor, if you didn’t wake up soon.”
“What happened?” I croaked.
“Olisa brought you home.” Anuli answered. “You’ve been asleep for almost 24 hours! Aunty Ekwi even called a doctor over, and after examining you, he just advised we give you more time…that your body was trying to heal itself.”
I sat up, as memories of Saturday night poured into my head. From the fire…to how Amobi had tried to rape me.
“That Amobi!” Anuli muttered. “If he hadn’t already been beaten to a pulp, I would have found a way to go and pour hot water on that his amụ! Yeye man!”
“Beaten to a pulp?! But I stopped Olisa and his friends from inflicting much harm. When they let him go, he wasn’t too badly shaken.”
Anuli smiled ruefully. “Who said anything about Olisa?” she laughed. “Duke went to waylay him at the hospital this afternoon. From what we hear, Amobi is almost unrecognisable!”
My hands went to my mouth, as I gasped in shock.
“I just thank God that Olisa and his ‘friends’ were there at the right time! If not, only God knows what story we would have been saying now!” Anuli muttered, rising to her feet. “I’m going to get you something to eat. You need it!”
She returned shortly, with Aunty Ekwi in tow, and they proceeded to coax me into a meal of white rice and stew, which I reluctantly ate, before falling asleep again. By the time I awoke, it was daytime…and there was somebody else in the room with me.
“Hey.” he said, as we made eye contact.
“Hey.” I responded, noting his bruised hand. “What happened to your hand?”
A muscle twitched in his jaw, and I knew it was from his attack on Amobi.
“Did he hurt you at all?” he asked me instead, looking at me intently. “Did he touch you…or…?”
“No. Olisa and his friends got there in time.” I answered, prompting another muscle twitch from Duke. “I heard you almost killed the guy.”
“Looking at you now, I probably should have.” was his angry response. “I should never have allowed him take you away that night!”
“Nobody knew what he would be capable of doing. Well, at least, I didn’t.” I answered.
We sat in silence for a while, before Duke leaned forward to stroke my face. “My beautiful Golibe. I should have done more to protect you.”
I closed my eyes, savouring his touch. My hand reached to cover his, and by the time my eyes opened, as we both looked into each other’s eyes, we knew something was different.
Soon, the distance between us was closed, as his lips took mine in the most tender of kisses…feather light, but intense…beautiful…making the butterflies in my stomach erupt and flutter across my entire body.
Taking my hand, he placed it on his chest. “Golibe…how did you get here? How did you get into my heart?” he smiled at me. “I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.”
I smiled, recognising the quote from Much Ado About Nothing.
“Our hearts merely follow where our souls already lead.” I said, cupping his face with my hands.
“I’m too old for you, Golibe. What do you want with an old man like me?” he said, a weary smile on his face.
“But isn’t it strange? I do love nothing in the world so well as you.” I answered with a smile, quoting Benedick from the same Much Ado About Nothing.
And then we kissed again…and all was perfect in my world.
“Tell me about her…your ex-wife.” I said, as we sat together on the bed, hours after the kiss we’d shared. “What did she do to hurt you so badly?”
He didn’t answer immediately, and just when I thought he would ignore the question completely, he finally did.
“Mukoso and I met the first time I returned to Nigeria, after leaving for school. My mother had a bad mental episode the year after I left, so she moved to Aba…to stay with her older sister for some time…but ended up staying there for almost 8 years! When I visited in the Christmas of 1997, I spent it there with her…because there was nothing much for me here in Ogwashi. I went for a party with my cousins, and I met her there…Mukoso.” he sighed deeply. “We had a brief romance, and when I left, I thought it was pretty much the end of things, and that we would never see each other again. But a few months later, I got a call from my cousin. He said Mukoso had come to the house, to tell them she was pregnant, and that I was responsible. She left a number to call her on, and I did. I came home the following Easter, 1998, and we had a small traditional wedding. It was agreed that I would return to London, and she would move in with my aunt, while she finished her degree at Abia State University. In August, she had a beautiful baby girl…Amara. When I came home that Christmas, I fell head over heels in love with my daughter. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. I started coming home more regularly, just so that I could see her. In 2000, Mukoso got pregnant again, and when I came visiting for Christmas, she seemed so overwhelmed with the pregnancy, taking care of Amara, and trying to finish up in school, so we decided that Amara would come back to London with me, so she would have one less thing to worry about.”
“How were you able to cope with an infant all by yourself?” I asked.
“It wasn’t easy. I was still pretty young myself. I’d just turned 25, and had only just started working at the bank. But somehow, we managed. In 2001, her sister, Ugochi, was born, and by the time Mukoso was pregnant with the third in 2005, she was ready to move to London to be with me. So, she did, and we were all finally a family.” he paused briefly, before shrugging. “Mukoso and I had always struggled with our relationship. It had been purely a physical thing when we hooked up, and we didn’t have a lot in common, but I was determined to make it work…especially for our girls. Our third daughter was born just before Easter of 2006. By this time, I was doing exceptionally well at work, and life couldn’t have been better…or so I thought…”
I braced myself, as I felt the story was about to take an ominous turn.
“It happened without warning. We’d just come back from a family vacation to Spain, when Mukoso sat me down and told me she was leaving me. Even though it didn’t come as too much of a shock to me, considering we weren’t the most passionate couple in the world, it was what she said next that changed my life forever…” he inhaled deeply, as if trying to muster the strength to continue talking. “She told me that none of the girls was mine. That her school boyfriend had fathered all three of them, from Amara to Ugochi to Lotanna. That she’d been trying to work on his papers since she got to London, and that he had finally arrived the UK. And that she and the girls wanted to be a family with him…their real father.”
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed.
“I refused to believe her. I called her names. I called her a liar. But then, she demanded DNA testing, to show me that she was, indeed, saying the truth. And when the results came out, it was exactly as she’d said. None of the girls was mine.” he shook his head as a lone tear ran down his face. “It wasn’t losing Mukoso that devastated me. It was losing my girls. Even knowing they weren’t mine, I pleaded with her to let me keep them. Amara was as good as being my flesh and blood. I’d raised her alone since she was 2 years old. Taking her away was like ripping my heart out of my chest. But Mukoso would have none of it, and one day, I got back from work to find the house empty. She’d taken the girls and left. Apart from the traditional ceremony we’d had back home, we’d never gotten around to marrying legally, as there was always one excuse after the other; the stress of settling down, the stress of her post-graduate degree…it was always something. So, the end of our ‘marriage’ was just as simple as her packing her things and leaving. That was when I had the breakdown.”
I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him tightly, my heart breaking for him. “Did you ever see her again, Amara?”
He shook his head. “No. I came back to Nigeria after that. She was 14 the last time I saw her. She’s 17 now.” he laughed grimly. “A few months after I returned to Nigeria, Mukoso’s lawyer sent a letter, demanding money, stating that even though we hadn’t been legally married, we were common law partners, having lived together as ‘husband and wife’ for years. She was actually trying to get half of not only our family savings, but even my future income. She also filed for child support.. I was ready to even give her as much as she wanted…especially the child support, just for the girls to be happy. But my friend, Kene, wouldn’t hear of it. He got a ruthless lawyer who quashed her demands completely.”
“He did the right thing!” I muttered angrily, furious she would have had the nerve to demand anything after the horrible thing she’d done. “I’m so sorry, Duke…”
He smiled sadly. “I still miss my Amara so very much. But, luckily, the pain is a little less every day.”
“So how come you haven’t returned to London after 3 years?”
“My mother has always been mentally fragile. When my father died in 1983, I was just 8 years old, but I remember how she crumbled like a pack of cards, and just couldn’t function. At that age, I was the one who was caring for us both. She recovered eventually, but the year after I left for the UK, something else happened and she broke down again…leading to her staying in Aba with her sister for years. She got better eventually, returned to Ogwashi, and was fine until I was brought home, having suffered a breakdown of my own. She was able to nurse me back to health, but it must have proved too much for her, as she suffered another breakdown…one more devastating than any of the others before.”
“So is she…is she lucid?”
“She has her good days…and her bad days. I got her a nurse, but it seems she is only happy when she sees my face.” he answered.
“But you can’t keep your life on hold forever!”
He shrugged. “I’m the reason she suffered this breakdown. I can’t leave her in this condition.”
I chose not to argue, and nestled myself in his arms.
“So…you weren’t thinking of her when we listened to that PM Dawn song.” I remarked, smiling up at him.
“What I was thinking that day, was how I could be falling in love with a little kid.” was his response, smiling down at me. “But the truth is, I’d started falling in love with you long before then. The moment you quoted from Hamlet, to be exact.”
“I think I fell for you the first time I saw you on that balcony…looking all broody with your shirt off.” I said coyly.
He smiled and kissed me tenderly on the lips. “I have to leave now. I need to check on my mother. But can you come to my house later today? I have a small surprise for you.”
I nodded, sad to see him go, but already looking forward to the evening.
At 7pm exactly, I had a shower, and got dressed in an elaborate ankara boubou Anuli had gifted me earlier in our trip. I didn’t have the strength for make up, but still managed to primp myself enough to look decent.
“Are you sure you are in good condition to leave the house?!” Aunty Ekwi quipped.
“Don’t worry, Aunty.” Anuli said, smiling at me. “She’s in good hands.”
My older cousin walked me to Duke’s house, and before leaving me at the gate, pulled me into an embrace. “He’s a good one, Golibe!” she said, before walking away.
Pushing the gate open, I was surprised to find the door to the house also open. As I walked inside, I heard the sound of someone playing a guitar.
“Otego m chobara nwa di mma m ga-alu. E don tey I have been searching for you…Baby get something, lekenunu nwata nwere something… Achara ugo nwanyi nwa bu Ugegbe onyibo”
I smiled, as Duke sang the first verse of the popular song that I shared a name with. As my eyes got accustomed to the dimly lit room, my heart soared at the sight of him. Gone was the man with the scraggly beard and unkempt afro. In his place, was an incredibly handsome, clean shaven man.
“I didn’t know you played the guitar.” I remarked, when he was done. “Flavour better watch out for you.”
He put his guitar down and walked up to me, smiling and revealing the deepest dimples ever. He took me in his arms and kissed me.
“I’m glad you’re here.” he said.
“You shaved.” I remarked.
He rubbed his bare chin and smiled. “I haven’t had any motivation to…until now. You like?”
I broke into a wide grin. “Very much.”
He kissed me again, before taking me by the hand, to show me more of the house. “It might not look like that now, but this house was a real monument when my father built it years ago. He had just married his very young bride, and the house was meant to be something of a gift to her. Mom wasn’t even up to 20 when she had me.”
“No wonder she was so devastated when she lost him! What happened to him?” I asked.
“Motor accident. He’d gone to Benin for work, and was on his way home. He’d already gotten to Ogwashi. The accident happened as he was turning off the major road.” he answered grimly, leading me to a corner of the room with portraits hanging. “That’s him. Everyone says I look just like him. He was about my age when he died.”
I nodded and turned to look at the portrait next to his father’s…and my body went cold.
Staring back at me was the same woman from the picture I’d found in Onicha-Ugbo. The woman who had been pregnant in 1990.
“Is that your mother?” I asked, my face drained of all blood.
Duke’s face contorted in concern. “Yes. Are you okay, sweetie?”
“That’s…that’s the woman in the picture I told you about.” I answered, trembling from head to toe. “That’s my mother.”
The look on Duke’s face finally matched mine, and we stood there, staring at each other, our world crashing all around us.
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
- Golibe 14: Intoxicated Butterflies
- Golibe 15: The Boyfriend
- Golibe 16: Anuli
- Golibe 17: Masters of their fate
- Golibe 18: Ex-Wife
- Golibe 19: Falling
- Golibe 20: Nervous Breakdown
Catch up on our other series here: