As Chima Okere, who left Calabar, Cross River State for Abia State that Saturday evening to check on his old mum Madam Ndozi, walked into his family’s lounge, he observed without much ado that the woman in question had been in sorrowful mood considering the look on her aged face; her countenance was pale and moody as her shoulders were calmly held by Emeka.
“Mama, what is it?” he inquired, standing by the entrance. There was absolute tranquility all over. Chima walked closer to them. “Mama..?” he dished out. “My son.” she said. “You are welcome.” “I said, what is it?” He reiterated, ignoring her welcome note. “Ask your brother.” she answered, pointing at Emeka.
“Emeka, what is the problem?” he said, stood still, not minding to include any mark of respect in the name. He was the fourth child of the parents; in order words, Emeka deserved some respect from him.
Though he used to address him as ‘Brother Emeka’, it seemed he found no need of observing any protocol. “Won’t you sit down?” Emeka urged tenderly. He managed to sit on one of the single upholstery chairs sited directly opposite them.
“So, what is wrong?” he insisted, looking perturbed in his brownish caftan. “I don’t know why mama is disturbing herself unnecessarily.” quoth Emeka. “Disturbing herself?” Chima enquired. “Yes,” replied Emeka.
“She keeps saying, get married, get married as if marriage is all and all.” “My son,” Madam Ndozi interrupted, fixing her eyes on Chima. “That is not even the issue.” Chima was calm, remained attentive.
“He said he wants to travel abroad again.” She eventually notified. The information abruptly changed Chima’s mood. While looking at him, you needn’t be told that things were no longer at ease; he instantly frowned and got his eyes fixed on his elder brother as if his mother just announced that he (Emeka) was his rival. “Why are you looking at me that way?” Emeka broke the silence.
“Why have you decided to bring shame upon this family?” Chima uttered unequivocally. “How dare you address me in such manner?” “How else did you expect me to address you?” “It’s okay, it’s okay.”
The septuagenarian mediated. “Mama, let me tell this man here who he is,” said Chima. “Let me inform him that he had caused us enormous pains already since he is yet to know.” Emeka furiously stood up.
“I can see you don’t have any respect for your elder brother live again.” He asserted. “Elder brother my foot.” Chima responded, equally stood up. “I said, it’s okay.” Madam Ndozi shouted.
Despite the old woman’s effort to avoid the foreseen fire, one thing led to another, within a twinkle of an eye a serious fight ensued between the two brothers. In the process, their mother contracted a cardiac arrest and therein gave up the ghost.
Chima, on his part, sustained a severe cut and was rushed to a nearby hospital with the help of Emeka and other relatives who dashed to the compound on hearing the pandemonium.
“Where am I?” Chima enquired right from the hospital bed the moment he regained consciousness at about 8:45pm. Beside him were Emeka and a few of his relatives. “You are in the hospital.” Emeka replied.
“Why?” he said. “What happened?” he added, paused. “Where is mama.” He supplemented in a jiffy. “Don’t worry,” one of the sympathizers enjoined. “You will be fine okay?” He said just to divert his attention from the finding regarding his mother’s whereabouts.
There and behold at about 9:15pm, his beloved wife – Chiamaka – who came all the way from Calabar on hearing the incident, walked into the hospital room only to see his hubby surrounded by both familiar and strange faces.
“What happened to him?” she inquired as soon as she got to Chima, looked bemused. “My wife, calm down okay?” one of the kinsmen conscientised. On hearing the voice, Chima looked up, saw Chiamaka and became so pleased and relieved.
She became sparingly calm, rolling her palms on Chima’s entire body while taking her time to observe each of the men present in the room. Before she could finish with the observation, she got profusely shocked on catching the sight of Emeka; his facial outlook appeared to her like that of a monster. “Oh my…God..,!”” she screamed. “What is wrong?” Everyone,including Emeka, chorused.
The intriguing aspect of the said observation was that Emeka had once raped Chiamaka sometime in the past when she was still a maiden. The incident occurred when the former was yet to leave Nigeria for Germany; he had really lived a dirty life before he travelled abroad.
The ungodly act, carried out in the company of his fellow gangsters, took place in an uncompleted building situated in one of the rural localities in the state. Since Emeka was deported, he was yet to meet with Chiamaka who had been indisposed, and the latter couldn’t notice him via pictures among other photographic materials ever since she got married to Chima. “What is wrong, dear.” Chima managed to utter. “I know this man.” She said, cruelly pointing at Emeka.
“That is Emeka, my elder brother,” informed Chima. “The one who returned from Germany.” “He was the man who raped me,” she revealed strongly. “You remember the incident I told you about?” Chima nodded, remained attentive.
“This your so called brother here is the monster behind it.” “What…?” Chima shouted at the top of his voice. Everyone was trapped to the ground. Emeka, on his part, could best be described as a ‘living corpse’.
He never saw it coming; the funniest part was that he never recollected Chiamaka as one of the ladies he had in his net. The revelation indicated that Emeka was truly under a spell as his late mother presumed.
The aforementioned victim had vowed that whosoever that was involved in the act would never see peace in his life for eternity. The unfortunate event which occurred about seven years back had remained a nightmare in her entire life, thus she kept renewing the spell every moment she recalled it.
After all said and done, she was left with no option than to forgive him having received countless pleas in that regard, including those of Emeka who eventually embraced remorse and repentance.
Few months later, Emeka retraced his steps to Europe; this time, he chose Italy. Within some months stay in the country, he became transformed financially and otherwise.
But it was so painful his poor parents never lived up to that moment; although he finally made it, the thought of the fact that he contributed to their demise kept witch-hunting his person.
** The End **
• Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri