Story Written By Ogechi Alabi
Uncle Emma’s brother-in-law (his sister’s husband) fell critically ill. They sold all they had to treat his ailment to no avail. When Uncle Emma was informed, he took him abroad for treatment that was where it was discovered it was end stage cancer. There was nothing they could do for him there. He was brought back to Nigeria and died two weeks after he came back.
Uncle Emma became responsible for his sister and her children. His sister wasn’t satisfied. She moved in with Uncle Emma and auntie Nneoma along with her children. She terrorized auntie Nneoma; she abused her at every opportunity she got. Her children disrespected her too. Uncle Emma didn’t know what to do as she was older than him. She called for a family meeting and she fabricated lies against auntie Nneoma. Auntie Nneoma never responded as father had advised her to keep silent, one day she would be vindicated.
The harassment became more than auntie Nneoma could bear especially as her sister-in-law became physical with her. She refused to report to her husband instead she left the house with her then three sons. She moved to part of Lagos, rented an apartment and started her life anew. Her husband didn’t know where she went. This caused a serious rift between Uncle Emma and his sister. His sister had accused her of being a prostitute and using charm to hold uncle Emma because of his wealth. He searched for her three months When he found auntie Nneoma she refused to go back with him. For the first time she poured all her grievances out. He was hearing some of the things for the first time. She refused to report and fight his sister because of the love she had for him. If her leaving will make her happy, so be it. She further asked him to move on as she can never live in the same house with his sister and her children again. Uncle Emma convinced her to come back home and assured her he would investigate and resolve the issues.
Two months after auntie Nneoma returned to the house, Uncle Emma called for a family meeting which my father attended. Uncle Emma’s sister accused my auntie of disrespecting her, calling her names, starving her and her children and threatening to throw them out. She sounded very convincing and played the widow card for all to be sympathetic.
Uncle Emma allowed her finish. What she didn’t know was that uncle Emma was tired of the discord in the house. The accusations his sister had made against his wife was very much unlike her. For his wife to leave for three months and refuse to
disclose her whereabouts, there was more to it. He decided to find out the truth and have evidence too. He had planted a tape recorder in the sitting room which exposed his sister’s malicious attack and behavior. He got everything and more on tape.
He asked everyone to remain calm and quiet while he played the tape recording for them to listen to. It was like the ranting of a mad woman except for the weight of the threats.
“You are a witch. I will so deal with you that when you run again it will be final. Are these children my brother’s? I will plant it in my people’s mind that they are not his children. Let me tell you so you will know; my children will be the ones to inherit from my brother when he dies. Your children will be regarded as bastards by the time I am through with you. Emmanuel is a big coward. He ran after a woman. This charm is strong. But he will learn his lesson the hard way for defying me. I told him not to bring you back to my house and he did. I will make sure his death will be miserable. Don’t leave this house, you will be responsible for his death and your children will be called bastards. I will do it. I made Emmanuel and he must dance to my tune. If not for me where would Emmanuel be? Who would know him? He owes me and my children; you have no right over his wealth. Go back to your impoverished family before it is too late”
They also heard her on the recording hitting their children calling them bastards.
The entire gathering was quiet; you could hear a pin drop. My father spoke first.
“In the light of the evidence tendered by my in-law, I would like to suggest I take my sister and her children back with me. Obviously, there are some things Emmanuel didn’t tell us when he was marrying Nneoma. I refused to dabble into their family issue but when lives are threatened and the children ill-treated, I think the family has not been fair to my sister and she needs to leave so her husband can live”
Uncle Emma stood up and said boldly, “I asked Nneoma to bear with me over my sister’s behavior. I believed it was the shock of her husband’s death that caused her to be this wicked to her; it never occurred to me she felt threatened by Nneoma. Nneoma learnt how to accept blame and let peace reign but my sister sowed seed of discord in our hearts. The things she claimed Nneoma did sounded strange to me
but I held my peace. When things get missing in the house, she would claim she saw Nneoma give it to someone to send to her brother. This my in-law has never asked me for anything since I married his sister not even bride price. When I try to help him, he would decline. I didn’t know he was getting the report of what his sister was going through” he turned to his sister, “I know you will claim it was Nneoma that planted the recorder; no, I did it myself when a priest advised me to do it to ascertain the truth and also get evidence. Nneoma is not aware of this recording. She never answered you rather she was sobbing. Why do you want to kill me? I served your husband for three years while others served for two years. It took him almost a year to settle me after my freedom and he still didn’t give me all my money. I didn’t look at what he did to me, I tended to him when he was ill and gave you a roof over your head when his family member accused you of killing him. Nneoma accepted you and your children. How did you repay her? You insult her everyday and threaten her so she will leave. You want your children to inherit from another man who isn’t their father? My children are mine; I married Nneoma a virgin. I don’t want to have anything to do with you ever again. And if anything happens to me, you will be held responsible”
“Emma take it easy, that is no way to talk to your elder sister” his other sister replied spitefully.
“What did you say? You are in support of all she did? It was all your plans? My siblings I have invested so much in? Well, this marks the end. I will not have any relationship with you again. I have written my will. If I die, everything I have belongs to Nneoma. She has also written her will, if she dies everything she has will belong to her brother who will keep it in trust until the boys are old enough. If he dies, his family and the boys will share everything equally”
“God forbids. Why would you do that? Truly she must have charmed you” his brother replied.
“And what your sister did and is planning to do is right? None of you scolded her for what she said. It goes to show there is a connivance from this family. You are wicked people. You pretend in the presence of your brother and kill him at his back. Michael, take your sister. It is obvious she is hated by her in-laws. I do not want her to die. Let her leave with her sons so they would be protected” their uncle suggested.
“My wife is going nowhere. I am relocating from Lagos with my family. None of my family members is welcome in my home. I can see you have all planned to kill me and now the entire family is aware. I will not change my will. If I die, you will get nothing. Not even this house in the village. Try me and see. I am no longer responsible for you and your families. I will no longer pay school fees or medical bills. I have changed my number and my wife’s. Only those that we choose can have access to us” he turned to his wife and said, “my dear, thank you for enduring for my sake. From today I will make you a priority. Do you remember that dream you had that you made me pray with you late at night? You said , “Emma, please if anyone approaches you with a deal take it. Don’t look at the person just take it. Don’t even consider whether you can do it or not, just claim you can. Don’t allow your blessing pass you by. No matter who the person is take his words seriously. When Ejike approached me after been turned down by many people, I accepted. He took me to his father who in turn took me to the governor. That was how I got the contract that made me and I used the first money I made to set up my siblings. Did I set my wife and her family up? No. My brother-in-law here refused to collect a kobo from me. But all of you scrambled for my money and became jealous of my wife who through her God blessed me. I separate myself from you. Sister, I am leaving the house for you to live in until the rent expires. I have given money for business before, take care of your family. Nneomam, let us go”
They both walked out of the family and their lives. Uncle Emma built this house in Enugu and relocated his family. His friend Ejike was a commissioner and right-hand man to the governor of the state so he moved to be able to get more contracts. That was it. That was how uncle Emma got very rich. He made his wife a housewife and spoilt her rotten. All the accusations of auntie Nneoma charming and brainwashing uncle Emma fell on deaf ears. The villagers had heard about the recording and treated the family with scorn. How do brothers and sisters from the same parents plot to kill their brother, frame the wife and treat the children as bastards just so they acquire his wealth? When they saw they were being treated like outcast in their own kindred, they sought for peace. They asked for forgiveness and swore an oath with the bible never to do evil against uncle Emma and his family and if they do; it will visit them and their families immediately. Even with the reconciliation, they were not allowed in their home. Uncle Emma started assisting them again but from afar.
Amanze came back from school. Auntie Nneoma was excited to see her son. He was in Nsukka but he hardly comes home. She cooked a fresh pot of his favourite soup Egusi soup with bushmeat, dried fish and snail. He loved it combined with freshly pounded cassava also called akpu.
I was in my room when auntie Nneoma called and asked me to take food to Amanze at the boys’ quarters. I was reluctant to go. I would be alone with him there which wasn’t right. I stood by the kitchen door wondering what to do when the security, uncle Chike saw me. He asked what the matter was and I confided in him my worry.
“You are a wise girl. Give me, I will take it to his room for you. Any time his mother sends you to his room, call me to help you deliver the food. If only the other girls were as smart as you are, they would have made progress in this house”
I watched him take the food to the boys’ quarters and within a minute he was out. I thanked him quietly. I made a mental note to get something for him from my pocket money. I had not met my cousin yet and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Uncle Chike, didn’t have nice things to say about him. He called him spoilt and callous. He warned me to avoid him that he has no respect or regard for women including his own mother. I made sure the lock behind my door was firm enough to withstand a struggle. As long as I do not go to him at the boys’ quarters, I was safe.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early like I usually do to sweep the compound. As I was doing that, Amanze came out of his room wearing just his boxers and a singlet. He walked to the front of the house and asked uncle Chike to get him a packet of Benson and hedges cigarette. Uncle Chike left the gate to get it. Amanze turned to go back and that was when he sighted me. I was in a pair of knee length jeans shorts and a tshirt. This was also my first contact with him. He was tall and lanky. He only ate once in a day. It was no surprise he was this slim. He looked innocent. He hair was cut into a mohawk style which gave him a sweet look. When he saw me, he smiled at me and I immediately noticed his dimples. He was so cute. He looked more like his mother in terms of complexion and other features except his nose. He had an almost pointed nose like his father. He was obviously in his twenties most likely mid-twenties. Then he spoke;
“You must be the Akwaugo my mother can’t stop talking about. How are you?”
“Good morning sir. I am fine thank you” I replied.
“That’s good. What class are you in now?”
“I am in SS 1 sir”
“Science, Art or Business?”
“You came from the village and you want to do science? Aren’t they tall dreams?”
I smiled. I didn’t want brag. I was the best in my class so far. I have represented the school in two competitions. I was very good. I didn’t need to explain it to him. He had a mindset which my success will change. There were many intelligent children in the village; if given an opportunity, they would excel. I was one such child. I wanted others to have same opportunity.
Uncle Chike got back then and gave him the packet of cigarrete. Amaze urned back to me and asked, “Do you smoke?” then he laughed and said, “I was only kidding. See you later” and he walked away to his room.
Immediately he was out of earshot, uncle Chike pulled his right ear with his hand and said to me “Stay away from him. Don’t say I did not warn you, stay away from him. He will not care if you are his cousin, he would just devour you and his mother will return you to the village. You are smart, use your brain. Be at alert always”
He didn’t need to warn me. I could see he was charming. He knew he was and used it to his advantage. An unreasonable girl would fall for his charm but not her. I knew what I wanted out of life for myself and my family. Committing incest with a charming cousin wasn’t one of them.
Amanze joined his mother to drop me off in school on Monday morning. He came down from the car for reasons best known to him and all the girls were staring at
him. “See you later cousin” he waved to me as I walked towards the entrance of the school.
The girls flocked my table especially the seniors those in SS 3. They wanted his phone number. They bought me things during lunch so I would give them information. They promised to visit me at home. One of them even escorted me home but I didn’t allow her come in.
Initially, I didn’t want anything they offered but when they gave me things I had only just heard of and never seen, I played game. I collected from them what they offered and in return became their courier for the letters they exchanged. I didn’t know it was a craze to have a boyfriend in the university. I didn’t deliver the letters myself, I recruited uncle Chike to handle the delivery to Amanze. For the service, I gave a share of what I received. He delivered them to him. Amanze replied the letters with his contact details.
One morning, as I was sweeping the compound, I saw one of my schoolmates sneaking out of the house. It was very early in the morning and I wondered how she was able to get in so early and what she was looking for. She signaled to me not to say a word and snuck out. What she didn’t know was that uncle Chike saw her leave.
“Do you see them? That is how they will be looking for man up and down. What is she doing with Amanze? When the trouble starts, they will appear innocent. Did he force her now? Waka waka girl”
I was still surprised at seeing her in the house. It was still dark so it could only mean she was here …. No, it wasn’t possible. I refused to think some more about
the issue. I faced my chore and concentrated on it.