I was discharged from hospital three days later on Tuesday afternoon and Ajuna drove me straight to Sister Lillian’s place. I had given Mary instructions to stay at home in Festac with the child that day. I wanted the space and privacy to contend with Sister Lillian’s reactions, whatever it may be.
It was about three o’clock when we pulled up in front of the one-story building where she lived and Ajuna made the final phone call, alerting her of our arrival.
He got off the phone and looked at me. “She’s expecting you now, boss.”
He got out quickly and hurried around the front of the Murano to help me out, but I didn’t really need the help. I got out of the front seat easily.
“Wait here, I want to meet her alone,” I told him. “I’ll be fine.”
I walked through the gates and into the deserted compound alone.
I was dressed in a colorful Hawaiian shirt, black trousers, and shoes. The shirt covered the bandages on my body well, except for the one around my head. My right leg hurt a bit as I climbed up the stairs to Sister Lillian’s front door, but I wasn’t limping.
The door opened even before I could knock, and there she stood looking ravishingly beautiful and regal in a loose-fitting long robe with an elegantly done-up head tie of the same material, yellow with lovely green patterns.
She stood there and stared at me and I couldn’t meet her eyes. Without a word, she turned and walked away gracefully across the small balcony and into the room, leaving me standing there at the open door.
I took a deep breath and offered a prayer to heaven before going in after her, closing the front door very gently behind me. When I walked into the room, she stood by the far window, staring out of it with her back to me. I closed the door carefully and took only a few steps forward.
The whole place was very clean and filled with her fragrant perfume. She was so lovely and wonderful to look at whether from the front or back. Surprisingly, I felt a deep yearning to possess her, but was mindful of why I was there. Choosing my words carefully, I began to speak.
“I was just discharged from hospital and felt it necessary to come straight here to you before going home. I came to thank you for the role you played in saving my life but cannot really do that because I have committed a vile crime against you for which I must first ask forgiveness. I am so very sorry for what I did to you. If you could find it in your heart to completely forgive me, I will be forever grateful.”
She didn’t move or say anything for a long time, and then, just as I was beginning to lose hope of a response, she spoke.
“Which do you want me to forgive you for?” she asked quietly, turning slowly to face me. “For your uncontrollable temper or for betraying my trust in you as an Elder of God’s church. For attacking me so horribly in my own home when I really didn’t offend you in any way or perhaps it is just for assaulting me sexually like my own uncle did when I was just a young girl or like my husband enjoyed doing whenever he returned from one of his business trips, smelling of prostitutes and alcohol, but in need of a punching bag and more sex?” there was an expression of deep pain on her lovely face and it was there in her voice, old pain made new. “Which is it, because if it is just the sexual assault part, then you need not worry. I’ve already forgiven you like I forgave the men before you.”
She turned away to the window again.
Good God in heaven. I thought, aghast, suddenly remembering the dead look in her eyes and her strange calmness on that day. I had committed the worst crime against her, but it was something she was used to.
I swallowed hard.
“Please, look, I’ve not been myself lately. My wife’s betrayal was mind-bending and each new day brings to light new angles of that betrayal. She stole every penny I had and I’m now so deep in debt, I can barely see clearly. On the very day you called me with news of the child’s injury, I had just discovered that she had been cheating on me with two friends of mine and some criminals were trying to blackmail me with that information for millions of naira I didn’t even have anymore. I was literally crazy that day and all my actions were, beyond doubt, that of a crazy person. I’m now fully aware that I hurt you for no reason. I was very wrong and I deeply regret my actions, which is why I’m here right now with a troubled heart, looking for your forgiveness. Please, I beg you, forgive me; I’m truly sorry.”
The rigidity of her body suddenly relaxed, but she didn’t turn from the window.
“I have already forgiven you,” she said quietly.
“Thank you, but I don’t want that particular type of forgiveness,” I said firmly. “I want the one that comes with all your heart and I’m prepared to do anything, make any sacrifice, to get it.”
She turned around slowly to face me and there was a strange look in her lovely hazel eyes, it was narrowed.
“Is that what you really want?” she asked in a very quiet voice.
That strange look and the question again, I thought, remembering them well. She had asked the question twice on that day I raped her. It was like there was some hidden meaning to it, the way she said it.
“That is what I really want,” I replied firmly.
She relaxed completely.
“I forgive you with all my heart,” she said gently.
I bowed to her. “Thank you. I also thank you for not ceasing to look after the child and beg that you continue to do so,” I hesitated, but the curiosity was too much. “How were you so certain I would refuse to stay at home, and then wouldn’t get in the front with that taxi driver?”
Those hazel eyes suddenly hardened as they met mine, her voice too.
“Ever since I was a child, I have always known strange things. All my life, I have always had strange dreams and visions. A lot of people think me evil because of it, my friends and family call me a witch. You can call me a witch too, if you like. It won’t matter too much.”
“You’re not a witch,” I said firmly.
“But you were thinking it not too long ago.”
“A man is entitled to his thoughts, but a wise man rarely thinks or behaves like other people. I think you are the strongest and most fascinating woman I have ever met in my life and it would be an honor to get to know you better, if such a thing is even possible after what I have done.”
She lowered her eyes but didn’t say anything.
I took out a fat brown envelope of money from my trouser pocket.
“This is your payments for this new month and a little extra to show my appreciations.”
She shook her head. “I won’t be accepting money from you any more to take care of the child. I will be doing it because I want to.”
I was surprised.
“What will you do for money?”
“I’ll manage, thank you.”
She held up a hand. “Please, just leave it this way. I don’t want anything except the child.”
“Alright, but you can still accept this as a gift.”
She shook her head again. “I’m sorry, I don’t accept gifts from people, particularly men.”
I looked at her with new respect.
“I will send the child to you this evening, but I insist on continuing to provide foodstuffs for you as before, perhaps later we can sit down and reach some sort of understanding.”
She seemed to give that a thought then nodded. “Alright.”
“Thank you. I’ll be on my way now and stop bothering you.”
Putting the money back in my pocket, I turned to leave, but stopped hesitatingly and turned back to her.
“Did you tell Mother Nwachukwu or anyone of what I did?” I asked carefully, full of shame.
“I didn’t tell anyone and never will. It concerns no one but me and it is all past and forgotten now.”
Relieved, I bow again to her. “Thank you.”
I started towards the door.
I stopped and turned back, she was watching me with yet another kind of strange look in her eyes, kind of intense.
“My house?” I asked puzzled.
“Your wife broke an egg from a shrine to give her control over the house and its owner, you. Your house is connected to that shrine and the evil is affecting you both spiritually and physically. This will bring you a lot of financial setbacks unless it is stopped. The spirit of that shrine is entitled to one life a year from that house, your house. Your wife settles the debt with the blood sacrifice of a four-legged animal, but no such sacrifice has been made since the beginning of this new year, and so the spirit came for your life, but got another in its place. You must invite the Prophet to pray with a bell in your house to destroy that connection to the shrine so you may have peace and success in your endeavors. Do this quickly so that progress you are seeking right now, that contract, will not pass you by.”
She abruptly walked over to the sofa, sat down and crossed her legs elegantly, picked up a magazine on the side table and began to read. It was like I no longer existed.
I stared at her in wonder for a moment, then quietly left, closing the door gently behind me.
I put a call to the Prophet immediately I got back in the jeep with Ajuna. He was back in Lagos and insisted on coming to my house to do everything that very evening.
The contract was awarded me a few days later and I had my hands full. Most of the goods required were already in my warehouse, but a lot of others, like mini transformers and solar panels, had to be brought in. It took over a week to assemble everything, and then after special consultations and prayers with the Prophet, I pocketed the beefy insurance money, put my trust in God and brought in three powerful 24-wheeler closed-back trailers to cart everything away to Abuja with Ajuna and armed policemen riding escort in a powerful Helix Pickup jeep on loan from my Palm Oil company.
I never regretted it.
The goods arrived their destination ahead of schedule and two days later, Ajuna returned home with the Helix loaded down with the complementary products of the north, big tubers of yams in their dozens, a big bag of onions that was four feet high, a whole bag of dried fish delicacies, four big live turkeys, a dozen other fowls of different kinds and, behold, two huge goats and a brute of a ram. All for the Easter celebrations!
The smelly beasts really displeased me because they would be bleating, shitting and pissing all over the compound until somebody murdered them on Easter day, which was over a week away.
“Don’t worry, boss,” said Ajuna, rubbing his hands together with pleasure. “I will kill them all for sure before Easter.”
Mary clapped her hands delightedly and hugged him.
I quietly left the two fools to themselves and went back into the house.
On the eve of Good Friday, I went to visit Sister Lillian bearing special gifts.
I had stayed away since our reconciliation, three weeks now, and because I hadn’t been going to church, I hadn’t laid eyes on her at all.
My wounds were almost completely healed now and the bandages were gone. My plan for Easter was to stay home quietly and heal completely, maybe even get some quality time with Sister Lillian. She had been on my mind a lot and it wasn’t just because she had been taking care of my son so well and without making any demands of me.
Ajuna and I got to Lillian’s place by late evening and, impatient to see her, I went up ahead to her apartment, leaving him to get the items. I found the front door ajar and as soon as I stepped through, heard a muffled shout from within the bedroom. I was at the closed door in a flash, opening it and walking in. The sight that greeted me, stopped me cold in my tracks, but only briefly.
Sister Lillian lay on her back on the bed, desperately trying to fight off a man in a white singlet and trouser on top of her. The man sat astride her, pinning her down with his weight as he rained blows down on her.
Things happened very fast.
I bellowed with rage without even realizing it and charged forward.
The man saw me instantly and started to reach for something on the bedside table.
It was a gun!
Lillian grabbed him and held him fast, keeping him from the gun, and then I was there. I hit the man in the face with a powerful right fist, grabbed him by the neck with both hands and dragged him off her, off the bed and away from the gun. The bastard was almost as tall as I was but thickset like a gorilla and just as strong. He gained his feet quickly, broke my grip and fought back. Pain exploded in my injured left arm and shoulder as my left fist slammed into his head and the arm became useless. The man wrapped his powerful arms around my body, lifted me clean off my feet and, propelling me backward, slammed me hard against the wall and pinned me there as he drove vicious powerful punches into my abdomen. I was losing the fight fast, but then Ajuna was suddenly there and the man screamed as vicious heavy-duty punches slammed into his body at high speed. Ajuna plucked him off me, dragging him backward, spun him around and head-butted him full in the face, gave him more hard punches and blows, then kicked the legs right out from under him. The bastard landed heavily in a heap on the floor and Ajuna went to work swiftly on him.
Built like a gorilla or not, the bastard didn’t stand a chance against a giant-sized fighting machine like Ajuna who towered well above him. Ajuna made short work of him with skill and speed, hammering him into the floor with more vicious blows and kicks until he was covering protectively like the sack of shit he was.
Lillian was suddenly by my side, clutching desperately at my arm. “Stop him, please, he’s going to kill him.”
“No,” I shook my head firmly at her. “Let him kill him.”
“Please, that’s my husband.”
Ajuna stopped at once and we both stared at her in surprise.
“Your husband?” I repeated in disbelief.
“Yes,” she replied and started cleaning the tears from her eyes with her hands.
“Then why was he beating you like that?” I asked.
“That’s how he does.”
“That’s how he does?” I repeated aghast. “What about the gun?”
I pointed at the weapon still on the bedside table. It was a pistol.
“He came to kill me, but decided to have his way first,” she went to sit down on the sofa and buried her face in her hands.
“This ends here.” I declared and snapped my fingers at Ajuna. “Tie him up like the animal he is and go get the police to take a look at things for themselves. I want him in jail tonight.”
“The ropes I use in spreading clothes,” said Lillian with a carefree gesture that clearly showed her frustrations. “It’s on top of the wardrobe.”
A baby’s cry suddenly split the air. Lillian got up at once and went over to the wooden cradle on the far side of the room.
Flexing my left arm and shoulder, I studied the man as Ajuna tied him up. His face was battered and bloody now, but nothing could disguise how ugly and mean he looked. He was dark skinned and pot-bellied, clearly into his forties. His gold wristwatch, brown trousers, and shiny shoes spoke of money, a comfortable amount of it. The bastard looked completely subdued as Ajuna bound him up roughly, hands and feet, and dumped him in a heap in one corner.
The pain in my arm and shoulders had subsided to a dull ache and the arm was working again. As Ajuna left for the police, Lillian finished with the babies and came back to sit on the sofa.
I went to sit with her. “Did he hurt you badly?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I’m very good at protecting myself from him.”
I touched her arm gently, looking her over. Her blouse was torn at the shoulder and there were minor bruises on her arms and face, but nothing too bad. She was trying to put up a calm façade but was clearly quite shaken.
“I thought you said he didn’t know where you lived?” I asked gently.
“I thought so too, until he showed up at the door this evening.”
“I don’t need your permission or that of your boyfriend to come into my house,” snarled her husband hatefully from his undignified position on the floor. “And having my way with you is just one of my many marital rights, you ungrateful proud bitch.”
I was instantly on my feet, but Lillian put a quick hand on my arm.
“No, please,” she said quickly. “Just leave him alone for the police.”
“That’s right, just leave me alone for the police to come and bear witness, then set me free to sue your boyfriend’s ass for assault and battery.”
“Now I know you’re crazy,” I told him. “What would you call what you were doing to her?”
“She’s my wife,” he spat at me. “She belongs to me completely. I paid her bloody people a small fortune for her, I bought everything she owns and, directly or indirectly, my money paid for this apartment. A man has the right to do as he pleases with his property, but you have no right whatsoever to come in here and assault me.”
Lillian was suddenly on her feet, walking towards him.
“Today is the last time you will ever say such a thing again,” she said angrily, pulling off the wedding ring from her finger. She hurled the ring at him. “There are your rights. I will pack only my most personal belongings and leave this place tonight. As soon as I possibly can, I will begin divorce proceedings against you. Never again will you lay hands on me or call me your property. I will never have anything to do with you again in this life or any other, I swear it in the name of God who made me.”
The bastard actually laughed.
“I’m touched by your modesty,” he said mockingly. “But have you given thought to where you will go or what you will do for a living? You have no nursing certificate, I made sure of that, you proud bitch. And if you think your pompous excuse for a sister will take you in out of the goodness of her heart, you are in for a rude shock. Not even your new boyfriend here will touch you with a ten-foot pole when he finds out how you ruined me with your witchcraft.”
“How I ruined you with my –”
“No one in this world will ever take in a witch and her bastard,” he snarled hatefully, “I guarantee you that!”
Lillian burst into bitter tears and turned away from him.
I went swiftly to her then and took her comfortingly in my arms. I pointed a warning finger at the bastard.
“Speak again before the police get here and you’ll have a very good reason to sue me,” I told him flatly.
I pulled Lillian away to sit again on the sofa and tried to comfort her. I handed her my handkerchief.
“It is okay, stop crying… It is okay. Why are you even giving this bastard the pleasure of upsetting you?”
“I’m not a witch,” she cried half glancing at me. “I have never–”
“Hush,” I said gently rubbing her back comfortingly, “You don’t need to explain anything to me. I already talked to the Prophet and so know enough now to understand that people often mistake your unique spiritual gift for something else, but I promise you, I’m not one of those people. I came here today to thank you again for saving my life and my business. Things are getting better bit by bit for me now,” I pointed at the shopping bag by the coffee table. “I brought those gifts for you, to show my gratitude and appreciation, but now I will show it in another way also and gladly. I will provide you with a lawyer, first thing tomorrow morning, and foot all the bills for your divorce from this man. It is clearly long overdue.”
She had stopped crying now. “Thank… thank you.”
“No, it is I that should thank you. I will stand by you through all of this and afterward, provide whatever assistance you require. No one will ever hurt you again, and from tonight onwards, this man will never be a problem to you again, this I promise.”
She sighed deeply in relief, relaxing. “Thank you.”
“Where do you wish to sleep tonight?”
“I will go to my sister’s place.”
“Alright, I will give her a call right now to tell her we are coming. Go and pack up a few things, for now, Ajuna will bring you back tomorrow to get the rest. We’ll take my son back to Mary for the time being,” I rubbed her back comfortingly again and brushed the hair back from her face. “Don’t be upset anymore, okay? Everything will be alright and to your satisfaction, this I promise.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly, glancing at me.
“You are welcome,” I said gently, brushing back the hair from her face. “Go now and pack your things.”
As she got up and went across the room to the wardrobe, I got out my phone to make the call. I glanced at her husband and our eyes met. I saw pure hatred and jealousy in his eyes.
Ajuna soon arrived with two police officers who took one look at the loaded pistol and dragged the bastard away in handcuffs.
Mother Nwachukwu was waiting with her daughters outside the gates of her private bungalow when we rolled up. I hadn’t been there before, but Ajuna had brought Lillian there several times.
They took Lillian and her baby off my hands and I left with my son in a baby carrier in the back seat of the Murano.