Mrs. Okechukwu was in a state of shock. Never in her wildest dream did she expect what was happening. Her world was crumbling like a pack of cards. The scene that happened a moment ago was like a bad movie. Her husband…..she knew he wasn’t the best husband but being arrested and taken away for an unimaginable crime, she was speechless. Molesting her own niece! Ha! She was in trouble! Her hands on her head she sat weeping on the floor. “mo wa ninu wahala! I am in trouble! Where will I start from? Who will I tell? How will I tell my brother who entrusted his child into my care? This man has killed me! Obinna has killed me ooooo”
Tears streaming down her cheeks she moaned over and over again. “I have failed!”
On the other side of town inside the police headquarters, Mr. Obinna Okechukwu sat his head bowed in the interrogation room.
“So you chose to assault the young girl under your care instead of being her protector?”
He kept mute. He had no answer.
“Well we advise you to get a good lawyer because your case is coming up with speedy hearing.”
The detectives left him and a police officer took him back to the cell.
Outside, Poju watched Ovie talking to the detectives across the counter. She admired his strong physique as he stood talking to the officers. He had so much presence. She was so grateful he had taken interest in Ify’s case. His influence was a blessing. Just his intervention hastened the process. She was glad.
Her phone rang and she glanced down. She looked at the number. Why of all days was he calling?
“Your phone is ringing. Aren’t you going to answer it?”
Ovie had walked up unknown to her and he looked at her questioning as the phone continued to ring.
Poju looked at him mute, tears pooling in her eyes. Ovie was shocked. He hadn’t seen her like this.
He stooped before her asking softly. “Are you okay?”
His obvious care was her undoing. Her strong facade shattered. She shook her head, her hand going to her mouth.
“Come on. Let’s go somewhere quiet and private.”
He pulled her to her feet and led her out of the station to where he parked in a secluded place. He was glad within him that Ify hadn’t come along. He was attracted to Poju and enjoyed moments spent together.
Opening the car, he led her inside gently and quickly moved to the driver’s side and got in. Turning the air conditioning system on, he asked “Do you want to talk or do you want to go somewhere?”
She took a deep breath. “That was my father.”
His hand dropped from the ignition. She clearly wanted to talk.
“Why didn’t you want to talk to him?”
She turned to him, a sad smile lurking around her lips, her eyes wet. “It’s a sad story.”
“I am here, if you want to talk.”
Poju looked at him silently pondering.
“Okay.” She heaved a sigh and turned to face the dashboard.
“I was born 28 years ago in one quiet village on the outskirts of Lagos. The day I was born……. I would say it was one of the saddest days in my father’s life.”
Ovie’s mouth dropped open.
She laughed at his expression. “Close your mouth. Don’t let flies in.”
He smiled as he remembered telling her something similar some time back.
“Seriously though, why do you say that? The birth of a child is a thing of joy except…”
“You got it right. I made it into the world but my mother left the world.”
“I am so sorry.” His hand stretched out to clasp hers and she gripped it tightly.
“If only it was just that. It would have been bearable but her dying spelt a horrible childhood for me.”
She took a deep breath. “The night I was born, it was full moon. That alone made the village uneasy. My father was from a royal lineage and it was considered bad omen to birth a child on a full moon but my mother had no choice. I wasn’t ready to wait and she was already weak. She held on just long enough to hear my entry cry before she stopped breathing.” Her voice shook with unshed tears.
He tightened his grip without saying a word. Poju gripped him even tighter.
“My father was devastated. I think in retrospect, he lost all desire to live. He loved my mother deeply and her death took a chunk of his heart. He wasn’t the same again. It was no surprise he took to drinking.” She swallowed the lump threatening to clog her throat.
“I was more or less abandoned by him. He left me in the care of his younger brother and his wife.” Her eyes strayed to the dashboard and she picked up the pen that was there.
“I am sorry.” He whispered. She nodded.
“In all honesty, my uncle and aunt took care of me to the best of their ability. My problem was his friends. I never liked the way they looked at me especially a particular one.” Her eyes took on a faraway look.
When I was 12, I came back from school and nobody was at home. As I prepared to make lunch for myself, I heard a knock. I opened it and saw one of my uncle’s friends. The particular one I detested. I tried to tell him my uncle was not around. He grinned and pushed his way in.” She started shaking.
“He….. I….” She started sobbing loudly.
Ovie stretched across the car seat and embraced her.
“Shush. No need to continue.”
She shook her head. “No.”
“He forced himself on me.” She sobbed into his chest. “He forced himself. I shouted and shouted. Nobody came to my rescue. ” The tears were streaming down freely now.
Ovie’s heart wept for her, the child she was and the pain she felt.
His hand around her, he muttered over and over again. “I am sorry.”
She was incoherent for sometime. Somewhere inside, the dam had broken and all the emotions she had locked up burst open. She cried for the motherless child of years ago, the child abandoned by her father, the child that fell prey to the evil desires of an evil man. She wept.
Some time later, she lifted her head from his chest sniffing.
“I am sorry.” She tried to straighten his shirt. ” I didn’t mean to be such a cry baby.”
Ovie stopped her hand motion and looked deeply into her eyes. “There’s no need to be sorry. I am here for you anytime you need a shoulder.”
She stared at him,their gaze locked. The sudden sound of a car starting in the car park jerked them back to their surroundings. Poju looked down suddenly shy. Ovie just smiled.
“So…” he adjusted his shirt. “What did your uncle and aunt do? Did you tell them?”
She grimaced, an angry look coming into her eyes. “I did. My uncle wasn’t bothered. He said I was the one that came on to his friend. He dismissed everything I said. Infact, he made life more unbearable for me from that day. “
She glanced at him. “I saw hell. I couldn’t talk to anyone. My father knew but he wasn’t bothered. I was living in hell until one fateful day his elderly aunt came to see my uncle and took me to stay with her. That day……”
She smiled at him. “That day was when I knew there was a God and angels in human form.” She smiled widely.
“Aunty Pelumi was God sent. She is the reason I am here today. She took me as her child and made sure I was okay. She built my self esteem and encouraged me to be the best I could be.”
Ovie sighed soulfully. ” I am sorry for all you have been though.”
“It helped me recognize the pain in Ify’s eyes. I couldn’t let her go back to that house.”
He smiled. “Thank you for putting yourself out for her. I am deeply grateful also to Aunty Pelumi for taking care of you. Her hand led you to me.”
Poju blushed and looked down at her hands as he smiled fondly.