It all happened so quickly, one minute you were all chatting and making jokes at each other. Except your eldest brother, Chief Festus who sat aloof and gazed at the trees that you all passed along as the car sped by. The next minute most of your siblings shouted ‘Blood of Jesus’ as the car somersaulted. And the minute after the next, most of them were dead with only you as the survivor.
You were from a family of four, Festus, Ifeoma, Nkechi and you were born to the same parents and your parents after living for 88years had decided to join their ancestors. You, who was indifferent to family occasions and ceremonies was dragged into the thick of the preparation of the funeral of your parents. And a day before the funeral, you all decided to travel in one car to your village- Mbano for the proper burial. Your parents’ last wish was to see you people united as siblings after the numerous sibling rivalry that their life time had witnessed. You decided to put your differences aside even though you were only 27years old, you had differences with all your siblings. Festus insulted you each time he gave you tuition for your University he never gave allowances, just the tuition. He always said.
‘When I was your age, I was already a Governor. What have you achieved?’
Even though you were only 19 years at the time. You had differences with Ifeoma who never gave you meals to eat but ate your portion with hers. You had differences with Nkechi who detested you for being the last born.
Today was different as you watched them screamed for help and bled to death. Your life changed as you struggled to stop the bleeding. All the jokes you all made were not lost on you, you smiled and then you cried from the pain you saw around you. The trailer had compressed the passenger’s seat where Festus sat and what was left of his huge image was a sandwich. You barely escaped the accident as you sprained your hand from the impact. Ifeoma’s body was grotesque as she lay lifeless on the road. The Driver had disappeared from the scene and that was when you truly believed that African magic was still active.
Nkechi was half alive and half dead, she moaned for the thousandth time before she finally gave up her last breath.
You dragged yourself as far away as possible from the scene because you were scared to death. You felt their spirits all around you and you couldn’t utter a word to appease them. Even in death, they still detested you for being alive.
Help finally came but it was too late for all of them. You recounted the story of Festus’s final moments to his wife averting your gaze from her all the while. Afraid that she would attack you for not saving him. You stared at Festus’s children, they were 4 in number and you shuddered. Your Cousins, Uncles and Aunts were holding a meeting to decide the fate of them. Festus’s wife was summoned and you waited patiently for your turn.
She came out abruptly, avoiding you instantly as you moved towards the direction of the massive living room in Festus’s house. There was utter silence when you walked in. They starred at you as if you were an apparition.
‘It is settled, you shall take care of the welfare of Festus’s children and his wife. You shall also train two of them just as Festus trained you.’
Your Uncle said without taking his eyes off you. He willed you to object so that they can scream out curses on you. You were smart enough to keep quiet. You knew it won’t be too bad with all the wealth Festus had acquired.
You thought of your girlfriend whom you loved so much and whom you had proposed to before the accident. You wanted to show her to everyone, to tell them how lucky you were to have her. You had proposed a wedding date for next year but with everything now, you did not know what to do.
‘Is that all?’ You asked meekly.
‘Ikenna, you are now in charge of Festus’s family, take care of them o! You were his only brother and if anyone deserves to take care of his family, it is you. He would have entrusted his family to you too just as we are doing.’
Your Senior Cousin as she is popularly known said.
You were silent as you wondered what she meant. Your brother’s children were spoilt rotten. They were teenagers and they all had their cars. Their house was a castle and they took everything for granted. You worked in a bank and was only promoted a day before you proposed to Comfort. She had brought comfort to your life since you met her. You decided to break the news to everyone.
‘I shall be getting married by December.’ You said, it gave you satisfaction to see the look of shock on their faces.
‘But you only just lost all your immediate family members, don’t you think it is too soon to say so.’ Your Uncle muttered.
‘That is the only way that I can deal with the loss.’ You said.
‘How do you intend to take care of your brother’s children then?’ Another asked.
‘Festus was wealthy; his wealth will do that.’ You blabbed.
‘His wife will explain his financial state to you.’ Your uncle said and with that the meeting came to an end.
Every one of them left, leaving you with Festus’s wife who miraculously appeared when the room was devoid of your relatives. She had never been good to you. She always let you starve when you visit. She was a nasty and proud woman. Now she looked at you and pleaded.
‘Please stay with us for a while, we need a man’s presence in the house.’
‘I can’t, I shall visit regularly. I am getting married soon.’ You said.
‘Let you and your wife to be stay here.’ She said.
You stared at her, confused and she cried.
You couldn’t bear to watch her cry; you will be called a beast if you do not stop it. So against your better judgment you agreed to stay. She smiled instantly flashing her brown teeth at you. She was too pretty to have these coloured teeth you thought gazing at anything in the living room other than her.
‘I am sorry, if I had treated you badly in the past, please forgive me.’ She said.
You stared at her blankly and blurted ‘So what is the financial state of things? The burial is next month and we need to plan properly.’
She cleared her throat and refused to utter a word, then she cried again. This time it was a hallowed cry. You were speechless, she was a society woman just as your brother was a prominent politician. You couldn’t understand why she would cry for wealth. All politicians had money and although your brother did not win the last elections, he was still a wealthy man. She had contracts from the state government in any administration. She was that connected.
She broke the silence with her words. ‘We have nothing, absolutely nothing. This house is not even ours anymore, we mortgaged it.’
‘How much debt?’ You asked. You couldn’t resist the temptation to know more. After all, he was your brother.
‘100 million naira’ She said.
You gasped and she sighed.
‘I used to have lots of money o, the burial of your parents consumed it as well.’ She said to cover up her guilt.
Burial? You knew it was a lie, your brother barely brought out money for the burial, you spent your savings to finance it and that was why they reunited with you.
You felt disgusted and she could see it too. You stood up and she begged you.
‘Please do not go, we would die if you do not help us. The children’s school fees are also there
‘How much?’ You cut her mid-sentence.
‘Nnenna and Amaka are graduates. It is just Jane and Jennifer.
‘How much?’ You asked again, you were impatient with her formalities.
She saw the look of seriousness in your eyes and she quickly said.
‘6 million naira’
You gasped again and made to leave, she crouched on the lush red carpet and held your trouser.
‘I need to think.’ You said to her.
She let go wailing as she saw you walked out.
You called Comfort, her voice comforted you. You couldn’t bring yourself to tell her the mess you were in. You said sweet words to her and she laughed. Her laughter was soothing to your troubled soul. You wished you died with your siblings. It would have been better for you. But you were alive and burdened.
You walked back in, she was at the position you left her.
‘How many cars did he have? ‘ You asked.
‘9, 4 was for him, 1 was for me and 4 was for our 4 girls.’ She said.
‘Are they all in good condition?’ You asked.
‘No, 4 are bad.’ She said.
‘We would sell them and leave two, one for you and one for the children.’ You said.
‘We would use the proceeds for his burial and the rest to offset the debt a little.
‘When is the debt due again?’ You asked.
‘Next month’ She said.
‘You have to move to a smaller apartment with the children. perhaps a two bedroom bungalow should be rented for about N400,000, that is decent enough.’ You said.
You could see the look of disdain on her face.
‘I am not moving out of this house. I will get more contracts soon to compensate me for the loss of my husband.’ She uttered with pride.
‘What school is Jane and Jennifer attending?’ You asked.
‘ The University is in the UK.’ She said.
‘Let her change school to something more affordable in Nigeria.’ You said.
But she wouldn’t hear of it, she said they must go to good schools because that is what their father wanted and at the end she won the argument. She prevailed on you not to alter their lifestyle. You were too weak to be firm and so you left it. You got married in December and your wife stopped working, she had problems at work, sexual harassment by her boss, so she did the honourable thing and resigned.
She started a little business and you supported her. You lived in a one room apartment and refused to rent a larger space because you had too much financial strain. Your brother’s wife called you periodically to ask for money to feed the children even though two of them were graduates and ought to be working.
Jane and Jennifer asked you for money as if it was their right. You gave without complaining until that day when your wife discovered your salary worth. She accidentally stumbled on your bank statement which you left carelessly lying on the bed. She studied it before you returned from work and noticed that you got a quarterly bonus of 5million naira. She noticed that your salary is not N300,000 as you claimed, but it was N800,000. She saw that a very large chunk of that money had been going into the school fees of your brother’s children and his wife’s monthly upkeep.
She cried that day as your first child’s school fees of N100,000 had not been fully paid. She cried as she was pregnant with the second child who she could not afford to eat properly for because she was managing with you. She cried because God had blessed you so and you hid it from her.
She waited patiently till you came home that night. She sat down and demanded for your phone. She asked for your password and you obliged her, though you found it strange. She read all the messages and she cried all the more. Jane and Jennifer always asked for millions of naira as a right, your brother’s wife refused to leave her mansion and has asked you to pay the debt. All these requests you did not refuse.
She threatened to leave you, if you did not make amends. She said why can’t they school in Nigeria like every other young child.
You begged her and promised to make amends, then you got an admission into a University in USA for your masters but they asked for financial commitment. At that point a text came in from Jane demanding that you pay her school fees. You were torn in between your progress as a man and your brother’s children’s wellbeing even though they wore more expensive clothes than you or your wife. Even though they dressed like celebrities and stars. You put your head down and cried, but the solution wouldn’t come. So you decided to do what you thought was logical. You sent them the money and sacrificed your future for them. Your wife discovered it, she found out about your mistress, Jane’s friend and she knew you were compelled to act the way you do because you were being blackmailed by Jane, so she left you and took the kids along.
Your brother’s wife asked you to move in to the mansion with them so that they can take care of you. You failed to see their selfishness, you were blinded by being their only surviving relative. You moved in but it became worse, she wanted you all for herself. The sexual advances started and you couldn’t resist her, even though you knew it was bad. She was older than you by 8years. Every night, she sat with you in the living room pretending to be watching TV, she wore transparent night dresses and you barely swallowed you spittle each time she passed by you. She was forbidden fruit, you wouldn’t and couldn’t want anything to do with her sexually. So, you tried to resist her. Then Jane’s friend came visiting from school with Jane, she was all over you the moment she entered the house. She did not care what the others thought. You could see the anger in your brother’s wife face and an argument ensued with her and Jane.
You were torn in between her and your mistress, then she blurted out.
‘I am pregnant for you’
You knew she was lying, she was a whore and you knew it. She slept with everybody in government that was why she was that connected. You couldn’t bring yourself to tell her what she was. Your mistress laughed harshly. You turned around and saw your wife standing behind you, you wondered how long she had been standing there. You wondered if she heard everything. She said.
“It’s time to go home.”
You meekly followed her without uttering a word or glancing at the others. In the car, you were both silent and at home she began preparing a meal for you.
She asked you to eat, but you couldn’t, you were not sure if she heard everything or nothing. You thought of telling her everything and you thought against it. You were burdened.
Written by Flora Martins.