Hey people, hope y’all good. Here is the second part of Mother’s Wrapper. Enjoy and have a Fabulous weekend.
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My hands were fidgeting so much. One of them going up to twirl my Bob Marley plaits every so often.
We were sat under a coconut tree outside. He ordered a cold Star beer whilst I sipped Fanta. He had changed into a tee-shirt the same blue hue of a peacock’s feather.
He told me he had been back in Nigeria at our Lagos branch for three weeks. Having visited my mother who implied that I was involved with one of my colleagues in Port Harcourt, he had decided not to rush over. He didn’t want to ruin my relationship.
I couldn’t work out why my mother told David I was seeing someone. When she came down to see me, she had seen the way Baribor, one of our senior engineers fussed over me at the church. She had chided me for not ‘behaving like a wife material’ in his presence and proceeded to give him our Lagos phone number.
“No, I’m not with anyone. Not as lucky as you.” I pointed at his ring before gulping too much Fanta to swallow at once.
“Oh? Yes.” He stared at the ring as if he had forgotten it was there. “I got engaged last year.”
“Congrats.” I painted my face with a smile, grinning from ear to ear when all I wanted to do was go home to my bed and curl up.
“She died a few weeks after Chioma.’’
David told me how he got reacquainted with his friend, Catherine from his university days. She’d just discovered that she had cancer. She wanted a chance at family life. He thought he could give her that.
“I tried to be there for her. But a few weeks after we got engaged she took a turn for the worse.”
“I am sorry. I really am David.’’ I said, not knowing what else to say. I repeated myself when he looked away.
“You don’t have to say sorry Chioma.” His gaze trailed after a black bird flying past, towards the cluster of wooden huts.
I wanted to tell him about Kolabi creek, the sandy beach and the lonely footpaths of Bonny Street where my legs trailed absent-mindedly during my lunch hour; where I felt closer to him. I told him instead about how I left Lagos.
“So, why are you back here?” This was the reason why I agreed to meet him. I needed to know.
“When I took the job here, I took it partly because I hoped to run into you. I kept in touch with one or two people. I got Danladi to find out from Mike if you’d gotten married. I am sorry, I gave up easily on us.”
“I didn’t give up on us. Perhaps I should have. It wasn’t like you made me a promise, David.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
“I nearly did.”
“You are a beautiful girl, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of admirers. Thanks for not giving up.” He had a sip of his beer. “I went to see your mum with Mike. She is willing to give us a chance if you will take me back?”
I held his gaze for a few seconds and saw something familiar in his eyes. Something I recognised from two years ago.
“You gave up on us.”
“You wouldn’t have come back if Catherine was still alive.” It hurt to get the words out. The gland in my throat felt larger. My voice sounded strange, the way I must have sounded for days when he left, when I cried like a broken-hearted teenager. “I can’t forget you were with someone else when I was crying over you like a stupid girl.”
“I’m sorry I caused you pain. I really am.”
“I had to leave. Dad wasn’t coping. It took him a while to accept his disability.”
“You did the right thing.”
“We can’t go back to the way things were.”
He reclined and watched the bird. It had perched on one of the huts, chirping away. It had a playmate with it now.
“We are going to be working together David. So perhaps we can be friends again. I have missed having someone to talk to.”
David had stopped staring at the huts, his bright eyes were fixed on me, and his right hand had moved closer to mine on the table. What looked like a smile had formed on his face.
The heat in Larirock matched the one in Baribor’s eyes. His lips had mouthed something, I couldn’t catch. Angelique Kidjo’s voice, her distinctive African drumbeats and Steph’s occasional grunts were loud enough to drown them out.
“You are beautiful.” Baribor brushed his hand against mine. “Your eyes are like diamonds. Your skin is like ripe pawpaw. You…my dear… you are the apple of my eyes.”
Steph stamped her foot on the footrest of the bar stool she was sat on and arched her neck in the direction of David and his executive friends.
His eyes were on me, even though his hands gestured about as he engaged Alhaji Sankara and Edward Forest in what he called ‘moral debate’ last time. I wondered if they were talking about the men’s lust for women. They both had a woman in every corner. Alhaji Sankara – whose attractiveness could be pitted against most of our beautiful actresses – was married to a fraction of his harem. Edward’s unrestrained womanising often got people talking, with many of the men calling him names.
‘A foreigner should not mess with our girls.” Baribor once said to Frank, one of the security men, who nodded frantically, claiming he would disown his sisters if they brought home any man that wasn’t Okrika. He had sounded like a different Frank from the one that gave his teenage sisters to two expatriate bosses for the weekend when he couldn’t affords the rent and their school fees.
“You should marry me.” Baribor’s hand had positioned itself on my waist. My body- hugging top stopped slightly below my navel, showing the trimness of my waist and accentuating the chest that would normally be dowdily covered up.
“Let me show you how Riverians treat their women. I will spoil you with money. Ah, I will pamper you.”
“If you still have a job.” Steph grunted.
Baribor’s grip felt strong. His eyes were a fiery dark-brown. They went well with his hulking physique. Leaning on the bar frame behind him, he guided me closer to him. I hoped David’s eyes were on us. I hoped he saw the fire in Baribor’s eyes.
Yesterday, after I discovered his other secret I ran out before he could stop me. He was holding the phone receiver. Perhaps he would have ended the phone conversation if he had known I had come back early from my lunch break.
The past few weeks had brought us to where we were two years back, when we told each other everything. Mustering enough confidence, yesterday morning, I told him we should go on a date. He had been back for five weeks. Our friendship had morphed into the start of a romantic relationship. We were going to get together.
That was what I thought before I heard him telling someone on the phone that he would be leaving Nigeria in eight months.
“Will you dance with me?” Baribor asked.
I turned around to find that David had left. His friends had occupied themselves with two girls who were small enough to both occupy his now vacant seat
“Dance with me woman.” Baribor said.
“I need some air.” I told Steph and left the bar.
The air outside smelt breezy, untainted by cigarettes and beer. There weren’t that many people about. Friday nights saw the heart of the city heaving with people, expatriate workers and city dwellers. The recent abduction of a Bangladeshi oil engineer had caused the decline in night owls about.
I was lost in the night’s beauty, walking past a parked black car when someone shoved me from behind. I nearly collided with a garishly dark skinned man. He was as black as the night, dressed in frayed army uniform.
“Oya,” the man said to the man behind me. “Carry her inside car.”
The person that shoved me was dressed in the same frayed uniform. A stout man with a pungent smell. He laughed when I stepped away from him. I had inadvertently moved to the opened door of the passenger’s side.
“Bundle am inside.” The dark skinned one barked.
I let her out a scream as the stout soldier pushed me into the car. Kicking and aiming for all parts of him, I fought. I had heard stories of what military men in the Niger Delta did to girls and woman. Stories of brutal torture of men.
“Please let me go.” I knew if they closed the car door on me, the torture inflicted on me wouldn’t be the physical type inflicted on the men.
“Make una no struggle o.” Dark Skinned said, getting in the car through the other passenger door. His hands reached for me. They were huge. Scarred with marks of different shapes and sizes.
“What the hell is going on?” A familiar voice that came from outside the car asked.
The stout soldier let go of my legs and addressed someone in jagged English. Dark Skinned leered and tried to grab me but I jumped out of the car before he could.
I ran into David’s arms. I knew it was his voice that I had heard before.
I was shaking so much that David held on to me tighter. Dark Skinned seemed vaguely familiar now. Soldiers were often at the oil fields. They were there to maintain peace between locals and the oil companies but their arrival had seen a rise to violence. The army men dragged environmental activists from their beds two months ago and imprisoned them. One of them died during horrific torture meted out to them. A group of young men –who were later jailed without trial – retaliated by beating up a junior oil operator at an onshore site.
“What is going on?” He shouted at the men. “Are you deaf?”
“Sah.” His driver, a middle aged man we fondly called Pa Rufus who showed the wide gap between his teeth every time he greeted me stepped forward. “You dey look sad all the time. I come say make them bring madam for you.”
“We are here to do your wish sir.” Dark Skinned said.
“You know them?” I asked David.
“They are the soldiers that the federal government insists I travel with. They are supposed to protect me. Protection my foot.” He glared at Pa Rufus.“ Rufus is the one I’m disappointed with. What were you thinking? She could have been seriously hurt.”
“I say make them bring am, sah.” Pa Rufus put his hands on his head. “I no say make them carry am come. Na Mrs communication cause am. Please oga no sack me.” He knelt on the floor. “God punish Mrs communication.”
“I’m fine.” I tugged at David’s hand. “Can we get away from here?”
His jawline had tightened. He looked like someone ready for a fight. Pa Rufus had always been kind to me. From conversations I knew, he had more mouths to feed than the average man too. His third wife had taken in again. I had to save his job.
“Please, David. I’m sure it is just miscommunication like he said. Can we go?”
David glared at the scores of people that had started gathering on the other side of the road and then pointed his index finger at the soldiers. “I don’t need your protection if this is what you do. Report back to Colonel Boma tomorrow.”
He led me to his company car. Pa Rufus drove us to David’s house in RA quietly. Apart from his lengthy apology for the pothole on Rumuokwurushi Road, the new quiet Pa Rufus stayed with us for the rest of the journey.
Whilst David played with my hair on his veranda I expected Pa Rufus to regain his chattiness. His boss wanted to know if to let him go home for the night. For that, he needed to know if I would be staying all night.
“You can stay in the guest room.” David said. “Adora cleaned the room on Saturday. I can’t let you go home when you are this shaken.”
“I’m not sure.” I slid my hand where he had put his other hand on my thighs. Steph had given me one of her short skirts for the night.
I noticed Pa Rufus regarding me with the same eyes Mrs Johnson stared at me with, when I told her David and I were not together. Her lips were jammed together like someone trying not to say something. Perhaps she thought I ought to be grateful, that only someone with a foolish superior view of themselves would turn down a man from their race and class.
“I come back, sah.” Pa Rufus voiced his words as a question.
“Yes, that would be best.” David didn’t look away from me. “Madam and I have things to talk about.”
The glass doors had been opened and shut before his mouth claimed mine. One hand found its way under my top quickly whilst the other pulled me closer. I let him touch me a while longer, then retreated to the lone chair in the corner.
The swimming pool below looked inviting. One of the core beauties of the planned residential area. Steph and I had chosen a flat in an area not considered affluent enough for oil company workers.
“I’m sorry, Chioma, love. That must be the last thing you wanted after the night you have had.”
Leaning on the verandar, he looked arresting in his tailored azure blue buba and sokoto. It took some effort not to go to him and wrap my hands around him.
“I can’t start something with you if you are leaving Nigeria soon.”
“I’m here on a temporary peace mission.” He sighed. “I’m supposed to clean-up Rivers before the new management takes over. Ease things between the locals who are losing their farms and income daily, the military government who keep making things worse by sending soldiers here to rough-handle people and the corporation. I have to go to our branch in London or our headquarters in The Hague after my term here. This will sky rocket my career so I want to go. I guess what I’m asking is, if you can come with me.” He got on his knees in front of me and held my hands in his. “I want you to come as my wife.”
His eyes were on me. My hands had suddenly become sweaty and my insides had tightened. I couldn’t say his name let alone answer his question.
“If you are worried that your mum will say no because I don’t intend on staying in Nigeria, don’t. I will find a way to win her over.”
“It will be hard.” The last time she called me, my mother had grunted when I mentioned that David had replaced Mrs Johnson as the new director.
“I’m not giving up this time.” He rose, pulled me into his arms and wrapped his hands around my waist.
He wanted to kiss me. I could tell with the way his face nuzzled my neck and his voice rasped my name.
I wanted to tell him we would marry, that we would give our parents grandchildren but his lips descended on mine and his hands, my body. One of my hands had grabbed hold of the front of his buba, yet I knew my legs would fail me if he let go of me.
We stopped when we heard Adaora in the dining area with cutleries.
“I think Adora has finished cooking.” He straightened my top back in place and kissed my forehead. “I hope you know that Rufus is not coming back tonight.”
“Sorry. He had that naughty, stubborn face on him when he left. I guess he is just trying to make me happy.”
David smiled under the glare of my exaggerated, narrowed eyes.
“Stay in the guest room. Adora will give you anything you need. I have a meeting in the morning but I should be back soon enough. We can talk some more then.”
I wanted to teach him how to say Adaora’s name but his eyes were doing that thing they always did to me when I held his gaze for too long.
“If someone called Mrs Williams calls for me tomorrow, please don’t panic. Talk to her.” His eyes had lit up.
“Is she another of your hush–hush secrets?” Another revelation would finish us.
“Mrs Williams is my mother.” He laughed, grabbing my hand before I could hit him. We kissed again. Adaora calling Mr Williams softly did not stop us. Neither did her gentle knock on the door.
“We should really stop now before we go too far,” he let go of me eventually and grasped one of my hands in his. “Let’s go eat.”
He was gone before I woke up the next morning. I watched films with Adaora after we got back from my flat. It felt pleasant to have her relax after she helped me bring some of my things from my flat. She had showed me how to cook stews that didn’t make the eyes water earlier, telling me that her Oga’s tongue couldn’t take our pepper.
He didn’t come back until midnight. I was in bed when he tapped me awake.
“Hi, lover. You are in my bed.” Leaning over, he kissed my forehead.
Instead of his work suit, he had on the bathrobe he had changed into last night after his shower. His hair, partially damp, had been combed back. He smelt of fresh aftershave.
“I wanted to see you before going to bed.” Angry men and boys had marched the streets today bearing placards that read ‘Leave our land, oil thieves’. Wanting to make him feel better, I had put on my new nightdress after getting ready and waited up for him. “Your face tells me your meeting didn’t go well.” I sat up.
“No,” he sighed. “The activists are still locked up. I tried my best but your government has more or less decided the men’s fate. They don’t seem to understand that their military ways like their kill and go policy is turning the locals against us. They think it is a good idea to call protesting against oil drilling treason.”
I had heard him raising his voice two days ago on the phone to the CEO. Another oil spillage, a result of people tampering with the pipelines had caused the phone row. David had explained later on that not everyone at the corporation believed that relationship with the oil communities should be held as important as profit.
“I wish I could help you feel better.”
He noticed the nightdress and his eyes widened. “You are here. That helps.” He reached for my hand and stroked it tenderly. “I went to see your mother with Mike and Danladi after the meeting.”
“To tell her I will be leaving Nigeria at the end of the year and to ask for her permission to take you with me.”
“So, what did she say?” My insides churned as I waited. He seemed to be taking his time on purpose.
“She said yes.”
“Oh, she did!”
“Yes, mummy’s girl. I’m afraid you will be coming with me.”
“I can’t believe you made it happen.” I jumped into his arms. “I don’t know how you did it.”
“I told you I’m not going anywhere without you.”
Lowering my neck, I kissed his lips. He parted them and took my lips in his. He tasted sweet but this kiss was different from the others we had shared. It graduated from a near gentle one to a rough kiss that caught me unawares. I was on my back in moments, his hands rousing every part of me before pausing at the hem of my nightwear.
“I love you, Chioma. I will never let you down.”
The strength of those words would be tested not long after. On the day of our engagement party when my mother turned to David and his mother and said she would rather die than let her only child marry a foreigner.
I had been at home in Lagos with her, my stepfather and stepsisters preparing for my wedding so when she uttered those words in front of his friends and mother, I expected her to burst out laughing.
She didn’t. It wasn’t a joke.
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