Awele laughed out loud at the idea of it.
“Sister Petra?! How can?! It’s not even possible!” she scoffed. “It’s because you don’t know her well, that’s why you’re even entertaining such a thought!”
Aunty Ekwi was inclined to agree with her. “That Petra that I’m sure hasn’t even seen a man’s inner shirt before.” she retorted. “Besides, I have lived here in this town with her for decades. If she was ever pregnant, I’m sure I would have noticed!”
But Anuli wasn’t as convinced. “If you had said this to me earlier in the year, I might have agreed that it can never be possible.” she mused. “But there was something about the way she behaved that time we went to Onitsha. In fact, there was something about that whole encounter that didn’t quite sit well with me.”
“So what are you saying? That she could be Golibe’s mother? Do they even look alike?!” Awele retorted.
Anuli shook her head. “Sometimes, I wonder about you and your sense, Awele!”
By this time, my head was aching, trying to process the sudden barrage of information I was getting. Regardless of how Awele or Aunty Ekwi felt, the dots were connecting. Sister Petra had been close to my mother…who had also been close to Duke’s mother…who had mentioned the name Ginika, in connection with my birth mother…which just happened to be Sister Petra’s name.
Rising to my feet, I walked out of the room without saying another word. The others thankfully understood my need for solitude, and didn’t follow me. Returning to my bedroom, the first thing I did was to call my brother. As I told him the story, the intensity of it all made me break down in tears.
“Oh, Emma!” he exclaimed. “You don’t know how this hurts that you’re going through all this alone. If only you’d agreed to wait till Christmas, so I could have accompanied you myself, at least I would be there to comfort you now!”
Hearing the despair in his voice was enough to help me shake off mine. There was no point upsetting him thousands of miles away.
“Did you know her? Sister Petra?” I asked.
“I’m afraid not.” he’d answered regretfully. “I was never in Ogwashi long enough to really interact with non-family members. Bear in mind that it was only when Dad and his…and your mom relocated to England that I was finally free to visit here. Aunty Agbomma wouldn’t hear of it, when she was still here. Not even when they moved to Onicha-Ugbo.”
“Awele and Aunty Ekwi both think it’s not possible…because she’s apparently not the type.” I muttered dejectedly.
“It only takes one time, Emma.” Chuka answered. “Even for the best of people.”
I nodded, realising he was right. Eager to change the topic, I told him about the wonderful gift Anuli had given Awele barely an hour before.
“That was extremely kind of Anuli! Wow! She’s really grown up. The girl I knew would never give up a kobo of her money, talkless of a whole million!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t even know Awele was in need. Yes, I’m aware that she and her husband have no kids, but I never would have imagined money was the barrier to them seeking treatment.”
I proceeded to tell him about how Awele and her husband barely made ends meet on their meagre salaries, and how this was the lifeline they had been praying for, for years.
Chuka was silent for a few minutes, before he finally said, “I don’t want Anuli to make that sacrifice. It’s her money, and I want her compensated for the sacrifice of her time. She’s been with you for three months. That has to count for something…and I don’t care if she’s marrying a rich guy or not. Tell Awele that I’ll pay for everything…from start to finish. I know a few doctors in Abuja, and I’ll get here a reference to the best fertility doctor they recommend. No matter how many cycles she might need, I’m ready to pay for everything. I’ll call her later tonight, so we can talk about it better. I also know a few people who might be able to help her and her husband with better employment in Abuja.”
I squealed in delight, momentarily forgetting about Sister Petra. If Awele’s mind had been blown by Anuli’s gesture, Chuka’s was going to make her pass out!
And pass out she almost did, when I shared with her the news. Tearfully, she had immediately called to thank Chuka, and they had spent hours on the phone, discussing possible ways to improve the lot of her and her husband. Anuli had also been thrilled about not having to let go of her money after all. Everyone was elated. Everyone except me. Even though I’d succeeded for the first hour or so, I wasn’t able to shut the mystery of Sister Petra…aka Ginika…from my mind.
“Hmmmm.” Duke had mused, when we were together the next morning. “To be honest, I’m not sure what to think of it. I’m also struggling with the idea of Sister Petra being pregnant. It seems a bit far fetched to me.”
“It was clearly before she became a nun, so anything is possible, right?” I asked, desperate for some sort of affirmation.
“You’re correct. Anything is possible.” he answered. “I guess the only wise thing to do would be to ask her.”
As simple as it sounded, the mere thought of it gave me goose bumps. Confronting Anuli had been easy. Confronting Duke’s mother had been fuelled by fear and desperation. But for Sister Petra…what was I supposed to say to her? How was I supposed to say it? But deep in my heart, I knew he was correct.
So, there and then, I reached for my phone and dialled her number. But it just wouldn’t connect, no matter how hard I tried.
“Maybe she’s out of town? Maybe she’s not in service coverage area?” I pondered.
But Duke’s brows furrowed, as he dialled her number again on my phone. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say your number has been blocked.” he reached for his phone and dialled the number, and got the same outcome.
“It has to be the network. She can’t possibly have blocked your number as well!” I exclaimed.
“If she’s trying to avoid you, and she knows we’re an item, it’s very likely she would!” he said, sitting up. “Maybe she’s gotten wind of the fact that you’re looking for someone named Ginika?”
Refusing to believe it, I charged upstairs, where Awele and Anuli were animatedly chatting about colour theme options for the wedding. Without even asking, I grabbed Anuli’s phone and dialled Sister Petra’s number. The same thing.
“Ah! She has blocked the number oh!” Anuli exclaimed, dialling again. “I told you the woman has something to hide!”
Awele hissed, reached for her phone and began to punch the number. “Why on earth would she block so many people? For what reason? When she didn’t kill anybody. I’m sure it’s network…” her voice trailed off, and from the look on her face, I could tell the number had connected.
Sister Petra hadn’t blocked her own number.
“Good morning, Sister…” she said nervously, when the woman answered the phone. “How is everything? My husband is fine, Sister. No…no I’m not in Abuja. I’m actually here in Ogwashi…” she cleared her throat. “Can I see you today, Sister? There is something I’d like to discuss. Oh, you’re busy today? I can come in the evening…Oh, I see. What about tomorrow?” she smiled sadly, as realisation dawned on her. “I understand, Sister. Some other time then.”
She disconnected the line, and stared around the room. By this time, Duke had joined us. No more words needed to be said. She was clearly avoiding us. She was clearly avoiding me.
And it made me all the more determined to confront her.
That was when Anuli came up with a plan. Apparently, our town Olisa, the one who had rescued me from Amobi’s clutches, was related to Sister Petra.
“He’s not close enough to us for her to suspect anything!” Anuli plotted. “Let’s use him to bait her.”
As great as the plan sounded, I was a little apprehensive about using Olisa again. Apart from the fact I’d gotten physical with him when he made a pass at me months ago, I also hadn’t been in touch to thank him for saving me from rape.
It turns out I had nothing to worry about, as he was only too happy to do it.
“Anything for you, Golibe!” he’d said, smiling at me with lovelorn eyes, before nodding respectfully at Duke. He’d arrived the house only a few short minutes after speaking with Anuli, and it was clear to all that he was ready to do anything he could to help me. We agreed there was no better time than the present, and that the sooner we confronted her, the less time she would have to probably skip town, or something. Duke and Anuli wanted to accompany Olisa and I, but I vehemently refused.
“I need to do this alone.” I said to them both, getting into Olisa’s car.
“Don’t worry, bros. She’s in good hands.” Olisa said, smiling nervously at Duke. For someone who had been so menacing the night of the awful encounter, he seemed surprisingly scared of Duke.
“I’m sure she is.” had been my boyfriend’s ominous reply, which had the undertone of ‘If you lay a finger on her, you’re toast’.
Driving to the Church’s premises, I touched Olisa’s arm lightly. “Thanks so much for the other night. I haven’t gotten around to thanking you properly.”
He smiled at me. “Thank me for what, Golibe? I would never allow any ordinary girl go through that…talk less of you…my beautiful Golibe!” he shook his head wistfully. “I hope bros knows how lucky he is!”
I smiled at him, touched by his genuine affection. “Thanks Olisa.” I said, meaning it from the bottom of my heart. “But who were those guys with you? Are you in a cult or something?”
“Goli, forget that. Those are my homies!” he smiled coyly, his faux American accent making a comeback.
Even though I had a more pressing issue on my mind, I couldn’t ignore the opportunity. “Olisa, what about school? You told me your father was making plans to send you abroad?”
He hissed. “Abroad indeed! The old man doesn’t even have the money for a local private University anymore, not to mention sending me abroad. My family is living on past glory, babe!”
I nodded, remembering Aunty Ekwi had said something similar. “But being in a cult won’t help you either, Olisa. You need to think about your future and what you want from it. Or do you want to be here in Ogwashi forever?”
He looked at me, and I could tell I’d touched a sore spot. Just about then, we pulled into the gate of the convent, located beside the church, ending our conversation. We disembarked, and I walked behind him, at a reasonable distance. My hair was covered and I wore a long dress that concealed all my give-away tattoos, in case Sister Petra happened to see us from a distance.
“Wait here.” Olisa said to me, positioning a few doors away from Sister Petra’s. He knocked softly, and she opened the door warily.
“Ah, Olisa! What a surprise! Are you okay? Is your father okay?” she asked.
Without saying a word, he reached for me, and pulled me up to the door. Sister Petra’s eyes widened, and she made to shut her door, but Olisa placed his foot as a wedge. I took action myself, and forced myself into the small room. Turning to Olisa, I nodded, and he retreated and shut the door.
“What do you want?” she asked, deflated.
I looked at her, not even knowing where to start. “First of all, how did you know I would come looking for you? Why did you block my number?”
“I heard you and your cousin have been looking for all the Ginikas in town.” she answered, unable to meet my eye. “I also heard you and Nduka Ofodile have been spending time together…so I guessed you probably heard something from his mother.”
I stared at her in disbelief, shocked that she had been able to guess the chain of events so accurately.
“So you decided to not only block my number, but also those of pretty much everyone around me?!” I exclaimed. “What do you have to hide, Sister? Or should I call you mother?!!”
Her eyes widened, and she stepped back. “You have it all wrong…”
“You actually made me waste my time telling you about my mission here in Ogwashi. You sent me on a wild goose chase to Onitsha, when in fact was you all along!”
“I never sent you to Onitsha! I never told you any lies! You asked about Chalokwu and I told you how to find them. I didn’t lie to you!” she exclaimed tearfully.
“But it was you all along!” I screamed. “You knew I was here only to find my mother…and it was you all along!”
She shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “I’m not your mother, Golibe…”
“I can’t believe you’re still telling me lies!” I exclaimed, getting frantic. “If you’re not my mother, why all the hide and seek? Why have you done everything in your power to avoid me? Why are you quivering and shaking like a leaf now, unable to look me in the eye? Why was it your name, out of all the names she could, that Mrs. Ofodile chose to say? Why are you bent on being dishonest about the whole thing? Are you ashamed of the me? Are you ashamed of the fact that you have an illegitimate child?!”
“Golibe, I’m not your mother!” she shouted, silencing me. Grimacing from her own outburst, she sat on her bed and buried her face in your hands. “I’m not your mother…but I’m tired of all these lies. You don’t know how badly I wanted to tell you what I know, when we talked about what brought you to Ogwashi. You don’t know how badly I wanted to tell you everything.” she looked up at me tearfully. “But it wasn’t my secret to tell. It wasn’t my place.”
Looking at her, I knew she was saying the truth. She wasn’t my mother. But she knew who she was.
“Who is she?” I demanded. “I want to meet her. I want to speak with her!”
“I’ll take you to her.” she answered quietly. “Tomorrow…I’ll take you to her.”
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
- Golibe 21: Much ado about nothing
- Golibe 22: Blood Brother
- Golibe 23: Heart Smile
Catch up on our other series here: