Hello Yarners, welcome to Day 1 of the much talked about “12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS“. They say the “12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS“ traditionally counts from Christmas day, but the A!Team has decided to flip the script to bring it to you 10 days early.
Enjoy as Jumoke serves you the first dish.
P.S: Look out for “The Task” after the story – It holds the key to unlocking Day 2.
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//Say You Will Stay – Episode 13//
“You kissed your brother’s girlfriend!” Mrs Okadigbo had sent Annabel upstairs and dragged Chib downstairs. He was clad in the briefest of boxers. Slightly disoriented. A strong smell that Biba once told her was probably Marijuana clung to him. His mother held on to his ear, twisting it with her fingers. She was shouting in Igbo. Isio could not tell if she could hear either of them trying to placate her.
“This is how your brother said you stole five hundred pounds from his safe! Why Chibuzor? Why? After everything he has done for you…”
“I was not myself that night.” Chib interrupted her. “I was drunk and high.”
“Shut up, onye ara. Have I not begged you to stop these things?”
“Mummy please.” Isio pleaded. “You have to think of your health.”
“Don’t even talk to me. You that I trusted so much. How can you betray Obinna like this? How can you go for his disappointment of a brother? This one that has never passed an exam in his life. And you know how damaged my son was. You know he couldn’t trust anyone until you came along.”
“I don’t want to know. Just go home.”
Isio glanced at Chib. “I can’t lose Obinna. Please.”
“Go and get your things,” Mrs Okadigbo had transformed from the softly-spoken matriach she loved dearly. “I will tell my son you are no longer interested.”
“It isn’t her fault,” Chib interrupted again. “She was asleep that night.”
She was surprised to hear him tell his mother what happened. And when his mother slapped him, she felt sorry for him. But it was the woman she went to. She stopped her from striking him again.
“Please Mummy. He has already apologised. Please, don’t hit him again. He is sorry.”
“So why was he boasting on the phone? Isn’t that what Annabel said. That she heard him telling someone on the phone.”
“Wait,” Chib was still rubbing his cheek. “That was a long time ago. Around the time of the party. I was just telling Kingsley. Just showing off like guys do.” He knelt on the floor before his mother. “Please mum, forgive me. I promise I will quit the drinking and weed. I will beg my brother for forgiveness.”
“Will your brother forgive you?” His mother yelled. “You already told me he was angry when he found out you kept his wife’s secrets. You did not tell your own brother his wife was bringing a man to his house. Now, you have done this. You might as well kiss goodbye to your future.”
Isio did not know about Chib’s role in Obinna’s marriage. Obinna blamed himself mostly for what happened when they talked about it. Choosing to protect the mother of his child. She had wondered then if he would be like that with her. Protective even when she didn’t deserve it. She vowed to stay with him if they survived this.
“Mum please.” Chibuzor continued to kneel on the floor. “You know you can’t be shouting like this because of your health.”
“He is right Mummy.” Isio said.
“I’m going to go upstairs to talk to my grandchild.” Mrs Okadigbo grasped Isio’s hand. “She won’t say anything to her father. I will warn her. Please my daughter, we have to keep this between us.”
Isio thought of Annabel’s closeness with her father and shook her head. “Mummy, if we explain…”
“No. This will destroy my family. They are brothers, Issy. We both know he will never trust him again. Chibuzor will be back in Nigeria and he will cut him off forever. Please my daughter. Let this be the end of it. Nothing happened.”
When she had gone up, Chib tried to get Isio to talk to him. She ignored him, concentrating on checking the fridge. In her search for something to warm up for Annabel.
“I don’t deserve your kindness. I know that. But you know, I gotta thank you. I thought you were going to make things worse with mum.” He came closer to her. “I’m trying to mend our relationship here. Can we not even be friends?”
“You can quit making Mummy’s life difficult. And your brother’s too.”
“Okay. I will try. Don’t hold your breath, babe. I can’t help myself like my mother said.”
Later when she took Annabel a plate of jolof rice and moin moin, the girl did not say anything. She didn’t refuse the food either. Isio spoke whilst Annabel wiped her hands over and over with serviettes.
“I love you Annie. I love your daddy too. I know what you heard but I would never do anything to hurt you or him. I don’t know why your uncle said what he said. All I know is men say stuff all the time that’s not true to other men.”
Annabel stared at her and as she picked up her spoon and started to eat, Isio hoped it meant Annabel didn’t hate her too much now.
But when Annabel came to the kitchen and found her talking to Chib, the hope she had started to build up ferreted out of her clutch bit by bit. Annabel dropped her tray in the sink. The plate, cutleries and cup clattered as it hit the sink bowl. And as her footsteps thumped on her way back upstairs, Isio hung the serving spoon back.
“Chib serve your own food.”
“I thought we were good.” He didn’t rise. Adjusting his collar at the table as if he expected her to change her mind.
“Yes. Of course. Just serve your own food.”
“It isn’t about the food.” He tugged at the collar of his shirt again. “I thought we were trying to be friends.”
“Not at the risk of my relationship with your brother. Keep your distance Chib. At least try to do that when your niece is here.”
After a long shower, as she dried herself in the bathroom, she heard a sound in the bedroom that made her wince. Towel wrapped round her body, she opened the bathroom door. “What do you want again?”
Obinna was standing in the corner of the room. A smile that made his eyes gleam was on his face.“Hey sexy.”
“Jay. What are you doing here?”
She rushed into his arms. Squealed in delight as he picked her up and kissed every part of her body he could reach.
“You should have told me you were coming back tonight.” She purred against him on the bed. He had not stopped kissing her after lowering her to the bed and she thought of her toiletries and pyjamas on the side of the bed. He liked to have his bedroom tidier than a showroom. No bedding frills out of place. Edges tucked in. “I would have tidied your room if I knew.”
“I have to travel to Nigeria sooner than I thought. Some business matters need my attention. So, I thought I might as well come back early from Ribble.”
He was on his side, hand on her waist. Dressed in a fitted, blue suit. Cheeks and chin with visible stubble. His pink tie was the colour of her towel.
“I’m happy you are back.”
“So, who were you shouting at? When you came out of the bathroom you said what do you want.”
He was watching her with observant eyes. “Was it my brother? Has he been bothering you?”
“Are you sure? You know, I prefer you talk to me. I don’t like you keeping things from me. Secrets break relationships.”
“We are getting on better. Your brother and I. Don’t worry.”
“Good. Let me take off my jacket. I’m hungry and ready for bed.”
“There is plenty of food. Let me help you get ready for a shower or do you want to eat first?”
“It is you I want.” He pulled her down beside him as she tried to rise. “You are the one I want to ravish.” Taking her fingers in his mouth, he gave them the same kind of attention he often gave her thighs. Teasing her with his lips and tongue. He paused halfway through. “You took the ring off?”
“So your daughter won’t freak out.”
“Thanks sweetie.” He kissed her forehead and her mouth. Grinned when he started to take off her towel and she moaned that he should have a shower and eat first. “You are amazing. Do you know that?”
“You say that whenever you want me.”
“You are. You really are.” He took off his suit jacket and tossed it on the floor. Then he returned to kissing her whilst peeling off his clothes. “I want you to have my child. I want a mini you in my life.”
The worries that filled her mind every time she thought of what he wanted did not weigh her down like a cement bag. She helped him take off his shirt and trousers. Touched him boldly, the way he wanted.
She didn’t ask for the lights to be turned off. He was touching her in such a tender way. Yet stirring feelings she didn’t think could rise to the surface. He pushed her near peak each time, crushing every fence. The fences – her guilt for letting him be with her like a husband and the abuse she suffered as a child.
She was happy that he covered her mouth with his when he started to writhe against her. They wouldn’t have been able to face his mother in the morning.
When he finally groaned, he had to hold her against him. She was trembling. Crying without knowing the reason why.
“Don’t go away again,” she said when he wiped her tears and asked what was wrong.
“Sweetheart, I will be back soon. I promise. And when we are married, I will be happy to have you with me on some of this lonely trips.”
She was already thinking of how it would work. How she would work occasionally at the hospital. Volunteer at the children’s hospice and spend most of her time running a happy home.
Not the kind her aunty provided for her and Elohor. A very happy one.
“I’m late.” Isio said half-asleep.
She was lying on the sofa in her uniform. Kanyin was sitting on the armchair, plaiting Biba’s hair. She had not meant to blurt it out especially now that she knew Kanyin was getting worried about her inability to conceive.
“Yes you are late.” Kanyin said. “I told you to go and shower when you came back. You could have just gone straight to pick up Mummy for her appointment. Oya, go and drink coffee. You know your darling Jay won’t be happy if he comes back from Naija and you tell him his mother missed her appointment because of you.”
“The appointment is at four,” Isio yawned. “So, I have plenty of time to sleep after my busy night shift and then go. It will not be busy at the hospital today. It is ten days to Christmas, girls. They don’t book that many appointments for this time of the year.”
“Why are you not rushing to your darling Jay’s house today? Is it because he is not there?”
Kelly was supposed to be visiting Annabel who did not go to school because of a persistent headache. Isio didn’t want to go early and run into Kelly.
“I’m not talking about that kind of late, Kanyin.”
“Please tell me you didn’t let Jay get you pregnant.” Biba pulled her head out of Kanyin’s grasp. “He hasn’t even married you yet. What if he dumps you?”
“We have been careless only a few times.”
“Babe, it only takes one time.”
“He has been in Nigeria now for a week. Before then he wasn’t even around.”
“When he is here, he doesn’t even take a break.” Biba curved her neck to address Kanyin. “One day he came from work, he dragged her to the room and he didn’t even let her come out until the following night. Shey, it is her fault that he didn’t have a girl for several years ni.”
“Is she complaining to you?” Kanyin smiled. “Is it your legs they are using?”
“I like him, you know that. It is just that she is letting him control her. Now she is talking about only working part-time.”
“Says the girl that doesn’t work.”
“I’m saying she wants to work part-time for him. So she can care for his mother and spoilt daughter and give him sons. Why give up her dreams so she can be popping out babies every year.”
“Bibby, you are pregnant too. Have you forgotten? Unlike you, Issy has it covered. Obinna is crazy about her. We should be focusing on you.”
“What about me?”
“Your belly will start to show soon and yet you won’t talk about it. Chibuzor doesn’t even know and I suspect you are messing with someone already.”
“A man that’s probably not available. Yes, I know you are. You keep taking calls in the kitchen when I’m here.”
Isio thought of something that would hold both girls’ interest. Biba and Idriss had become so close, speaking every night. She said he was like the uncle she never had. Except that she did actually have quite a few uncles.
“Nothing is gonna happen,” she insisted when they talked about it. “He is married and he is my friend’s dad so we are just friends.”
But just last night, when she went into Biba’s room to get her hairbrush, she caught her in her red lingerie taking pictures with her phone. Biba said it was none of her business. That she liked to take selfies of herself. As Isio left for work, she heard Biba speaking to a man on the phone in Yoruba.
“I’m going girls.” Kanyin said. “I hope you are pregnant Issy. And you, Bibby, get your priorities straight.” She started packing up the combs, hair ointment and extensions she brought with her. “Stop focusing on men. You have a miracle growing inside you.”
“Kanyinsola, where are you going?.” Biba heaved herself up and faced her. “Are you angry?”
Isio joined them too and placed one hand on Kanyin’s back. “I’m sorry. I should have remembered what you are going through.”
“I’m happy for you.” Kanyin planted a smile on her face. “I just want to be pregnant too. Austin and I keep falling out because of it. The other day he said I’m reluctant to have a child with him. That I would have had it by now if it was Emeka that I married. Tell me, is it my fault?”
Isio rubbed her back. “I’m sure, Austin didn’t mean what he said.”
“He said it just came out. Then he apologised.”
Obinna had told Isio how much Kanyin loved his brother. Saying that she wouldn’t have married Austin if Emeka had not been killed.
His voice had taken a dip and she had gone and sat on his lap because he rarely showed how much his brother’s loss affected him.
“Forgive him and keep trying to make babies. I’m sure I’m not pregnant. It is our very experienced girl here you should be asking how to make babies.”
Biba did not laugh with them. She was rolling her eyes when Isio’s phone rang. She went to it quickly because Obinna did not call last night.
She didn’t let her disappointment show when she heard her sister’s voice. “Lohor. I don’t recognise this number.”
“It is Bolaji’s other phone.”
“Oh, I see. Have you seen Jay? He said he was driving down to see you yesterday…”
“I have been ringing your number Maddiah. Where have you been?”
She was about to sit down but she decided not to. Her sister rarely used her second name. Reserving it for whenever something terrible had happened. “Lohor, did you see Obinna?”
“Yes, he came. He came with his brother Ifeanyi and his father.” Her sister sounded frantic. “Something happened yesterday… I’m sorry sis. I’m sorry.”
“Please Lohor. Just tell me.”
“I can’t. I really can’t.” She gasped. A jerky sound that usually came from her whenever she had been crying. Her sister cried as much as Isio did when they were children. And as she glanced at her friends who were on their feet staring at her with worried expressions, she realised that she too was struggling to stay calm.
“Lohor, I know something has happened to him. Just tell me.”
You don’t deserve this. We have been through so much. Why are people wicked like this?”
“Tell her,” She heard Bolaji’s voice in the background.
Isio sank to the sofa. She felt someone’s hand on her back. One of her friends. The palm stretched flat on her back.
“He came with his brother and father,” Elohor said. “He said he wanted them to meet me. Bolaji and I entertained them. We wanted them to wait so they could meet Daddy.”
Bolaji’s father became Daddy to them when they left Ughelli. They had been happy to call him Daddy. He cared about them.
“Then Aunty Ejiro turned up. You know I told you she now works in Lagos and she came here the other day.”
Isio mumbled a yes. She had been fine when her sister told her Aunty Ejiro came to see her. She had understood her sister’s willingness to forgive and because Aunty Ejiro did not abuse her sister, she thought it was fine. “I know she hurt you,” her sister had said. “But how can we have our grandma and the rest of the family at the wedding and not invite her?”
“I introduced Obinna and his family to Aunty Ejiro. She was very nice to them. Then I went to the kitchen and Bolaji came to get me. When I got back, Aunty Ejiro was telling them that you are a wayward girl. That she caught you with a man when we were young.”
“Jay knows I’m not wayward.” Isio’s voice was firm.
“That’s not all. She told him you are a liar. I tried to stop her. He defended you saying it’s Aunty Ejiro’s fault our mum left. That’s when she said our mother is a bad mum. That she left our dad for another man. That even now she lives in London, it is not as if you visit her.”
Isio covered her mouth with her hand. She imagined his face. The skin of his face pulled taut in disappointment. She wondered why she didn’t tell him.
“Why didn’t you tell him?” Her sister asked. “Why didn’t you tell him our mum lives in London? He looked so disappointed, Maddy. I’m sure now he thinks Aunty Ejiro is telling the truth about you.”
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