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Click here to Read The Part 8
He did nothing more than drink and smoke these days.
How he learned to smoke or when he began he couldn’t even remember. But, it was one of those things people do when they become stressed. Or so his mind and body told him.
So, he smoked and drank.
His memory had also systematically erased sections of itself, keeping only the most important stuffs. He couldn’t even remember things from a few days back, except of course, his memories of Ozioma and Olamide.
He had also completely withdrawn from people and family. He was always cooped up in the flat, finding no motivation to go into the world and try to pick things up again. However, he still kept awake three nights a week, but he had since stopped praying. He had lost faith in the efficacy of his own prayers. God had forsaken him too, and he was to pay full recompense for the foolishness of his ways. The throwing away of that one golden gift God gave to him to nurture and care for.
The house was dirty and unkempt, but he didn’t find it repulsive. His hallucinatory existence didn’t care for the state of cleanliness or otherwise of himself or his abode. He couldn’t care for how it looked anymore.
As far as he was concerned, no one lived there. And no one lived in his other home too.
He was a man who had come to a juncture in his life where there was nothing more to do than to park on the shoulder of the road and enjoy the view. His life had come to a standstill.
So, he drank and smoked. His drinking leaving him almost always in a state of semi-lucidity. It worried his family, and his brother had started coming around again to see after him. Him and his fiancée alternating visits, helping to wash his clothes and make him meals. The last time he came, he had been so worried he had threatened him.
“Haba Izu, what is all this now? You have to pull yourself together or there would be no one else around for Daphne and Ozioma to come back.”
That had been like pouring cold water through a valve in his heart. The mention of his wife and daughter’s name were like barbed arrows poking at him. He had crumpled on the sofa and cried like a baby. He was deliberately wasting himself away, his life had no more value to him when the people he loved where not in it.
“I…can’t…go on. I can’t…go on…without them”
“Man, look here, you’ll have to. I know you are stronger than this. But, you are just letting yourself go and letting everyone down. You ought to put your mind firmly together and look forward to the day you’d see your wife and daughter again.”
“And…and…Olamide too. And…her ba..b..by.”
“I am sure she would turn up. You just have to make yourself ready for when they do.”
It had been a painful discussion. But, pain was now the only emotion that existed for him. He welcomed every chance to find himself confronted by, or presented with it.
“I might be forced to report you to mom and dad if you keep this up longer than necessary. Maybe they can talk sense into you.”
He had held his brother’s face between his palms and whispered, “I am sorry, Uche.” He touched the scar where he had marked him in their earlier encounter and the tears began to fall again.
He cried till he fell asleep.
But, he couldn’t stop himself. He continued to drink in hope he would drown himself out. It was the only way he could exist from day-to-day.
He was anchor-less and his ship was captain less to boot. So, he drank and sat three days before the photographs every week. His heart had not forgotten how to pray, it was just that his mouth had totally forgotten how to form the words. So, he sat there and murmured things. Unintelligible things to the portraits all night.
And when the day broke, he resumed his drinking. It was a routine and he never failed for once in the four months after he lost his money to Steve’s business scheme.
After his talk with Uche, he tried to curtail his drinking and smoking. But, after a few months he couldn’t keep up and reverted. For months he hid it away from him, but he couldn’t hide his glazed eyes and dirty and unkempt house.
That went on for months rolling into year. Then one day Uche came and gave him a long, harsh talk on the same subject of drinking and smoking. This time, Izu had not cried or said anything.
He was too far-gone to even reply. He had nothing more to say to the world. He only had things to say to Ozioma and Olamide.
“Izu, I must say I am disappointed. We are looking after you and you refuse to look after yourself,” he stood up to leave, “look at your place, look at yourself. Do you have a death wish?”
One word and Izu had meant every emotion that poured from within him to utter it.
Uche had looked at him for a long moment, and in one flash of intuition Izu thought he saw fear in his eyes.
But, he couldn’t care anymore for that.
Something had to give.
A month later, Uche came back to see him. That day, something had happened to him in the night while sitting before the portraits. It was like something cracked inside him and he lost hope of ever seeing his family again. He woke up very early to begin his drinking and smoking session. He drank ever more than he ever did since, trying to drown out other emotions, to leave himself with just the pain of his loss.
Uche met him at his drink half way to his usual state of stupor, “Izu, you dey fall my hand,” he sat down opposite him with an accusatory look on his face.” You are far better than this and you know it. But, since you are hell-bent on destroying yourself, you left me no choice….”
“Uche, you didn’t call papa and mama?”
He didn’t believe he would carry through his threat to report him. He had only said that to make him stop.
“No, I didn’t.” Izu relaxed and reached for his bottle of St.Remy, “but I reported you to someone else. Two people in fact.”
Something in his tone struck Izu as odd. He wasn’t sure if it was the way he delivered his message or if it was that there was someone else that Uche thought would be able to call him to order, other than his parents. That idea clung to his heart like a ship-wrecked sailor clinging to a floating log for survival.
“What do you…me…mean? Who..dd..i…d…you…you…talk to?” He saw the tears drop from his brother’s eyes, the pain and the hurt. He saw the deep-lying sense of pity that were reflected in his pupils as he looked into it searching for clues.
“Izu, you gave me no choice. And….”
Izu gripped Uche’s forearm as the door swung on its hinges, and standing there was Ozioma Kate Amadi.
And beside her was his daughter, Daphne.
She was crying.
He was crying.
The shame washed over him. She was seeing him at his worst, he could barely stand and could barely talk. But, he found the strength to get up from his seat and approach her.
She was so skinny. She was also very pale and had deep, etched lines on her face. She looked as worse he for wear after more than two years of separation. But, he still loved her and it was from that emotion he drew the strength to approach her.
He was weeping uncontrollably as he took her in his arms, she was shaking too and was sobbing loudly.
“Oz…Oh, Oz! I am terribly sorry.”
It was amazing how he found his voice and how clear his speech could be. He stood there holding her for a very long time, both their tears mixing together as they drew strength from one another. Somehow, he could sense she needed him more than he needed her. Her fragility, her weightlessness and her seeming state of hopelessness filled him with fear as he held her.
“Oz…I am terribly….”
“Shuuuush, my love. Shussssh…” and she covered his mouth with hers. They only stopped after breathing became difficult.
“I should be the one making the apologies. But, more importantly, I think you should say hello to your daughter, sir.”
Izu fell to his knees immediately. She had grown taller, a foot or two since the last time he saw her, two years ago.
“How are you, princess?” He held her hand in his. “I am fine, daddy,” she replied him in a very soft, shy five-year old’s voice.
The emotions washed over him again like a tidal wave. “She remembers me…” the tears were seeping from of the corners of his eyes again, “She remembers I am her daddy!”
“Of course, she does. You are her daddy and I didn’t let her forget that” Izu led them into the unkempt living room. Now, he was aware of the state it was in. His glance swept to the portraits. Oz’s eyes also took in the room also, and he could sense her shudder and disapproval at the untidiness. Her eyes also followed his to the two portraits. He saw her sigh, and the glint of tears she was forcing to hold back.
“Look Oz, I am sorry…that I had to keep to ….” She placed her palm over his mouth. “Izu, please let me do all the talking.”
And she did. For the better part of two hours, Oz spoke and told him the story. It was a bizarre story of fate, and all through it, they both couldn’t control the tears that streaked down their faces.
Uche had taken Daphne into her old room, to better give them the privacy that their talk deserved.
“Izu, I am very sorry not to confide in you. But, I always thought you took things too much to heart. You are one of those rare, sentimental men who allow their hearts greater control of their heads. I love you for it, I always loved you for it and it was one of the reasons I married you…the other…you know…” She paused and touched his face tenderly,” you know I never for once thought you’d realize what was going on. I thought I would be long gone before either of you realized. On the day Olamide called me, I knew things were going to get difficult between us, she was pregnant and that was a shock for me. I didn’t know things had gone so far and it was a bit too much for me. Moreover, the game was up and my sticking around was only going to complicate things. I knew you loved her, you spoke to her in your dreams,” once again she paused to look at the two portraits. She was so frail was all Izu could think about. Too frail and sickly looking. “So, I decided to leave you a note to explain everything. Later on, before I left, I chose to write a second note to replace the first. I felt you were not ready….”
“A second note?”
“Yes, the one I pinned to the refrigerator. I edited that one to take out some of the essential details. Once again, I am sorry.” She opened her purse and took out an envelope which she handed to Izu. He took it from her and opened it. Inside the envelope were two sheets of paper covered with that neat scrawl which he knew very well.
I am gone. I am sorry I did what I did. Izu, I love you and still do and it is one way I wanted to leave – u knowing I always loved you that much. But, now the bubble have burst before its time. I am sick, but what you don’t know is that I am fatally sick. I have cancer and treatment is no longer able to manage its growth. I have limited time to live. Long and short, I am going to die. So, I thought to myself that I couldn’t leave my man and daughter to suffer at the hands of just any woman. So, I decided I was going to help you along the way some. Luckily, there came my old friend and soul-sister, Olamide. And I cunningly led her unknowingly to take an interest in you.
The rest you know. I am however unaccustomed to sharing you and you have also been very strange lately. But, know this – I approve of her. I hold her no grudge, but I couldn’t wait around making you both feel miserable because of me. I am of no use to you anymore. I can’t be of much use to Daphne for much longer. But, for the rest of my time I will spend some quality time with her.
Please do not come looking for us. And do not feel guilt as all the guilt is not yours alone to bear.
I will be thinking of you my love.
He finished the letter and let it fall on the seat. He was weak and emotionally drained. He couldn’t believe she had so little life left in her. He couldn’t believe he had spent the past two years of his life in anguish, because she had sought peace and happiness for him when she was gone. It seemed like her scheme had done more damage than good, at least in the two years. He forgave her everything, but was it the only way? He now understood he motives, but he needed to understand why she picked her MO.
“But, Oz why? Why this way? There could have been another way.”
She sighed deeply before replying, “I wanted you and Olamide together. I really did, seeing how I was dying…that I would die and leave you and my baby girl all alone in this world. I couldn’t leave you both to just any woman, and I approved of her. It was why I chose her to be with you. I love her like my sister, Izu. And I can trust her with my life.”
The coin dropped!
And for the second time that evening, the front door creaked open. And for the second time, Izu’s heart constricted and threatened to burst open.
Standing by the day, looking so fresh and as beautiful as she had ever being was Olamide and cradled in her arms was a cherubic faced baby.
She stood there, unsure of what to do. The boy snuggled closer to her as he also felt the tension. She looked at Ozioma, who nodded at her as if to encourage her to go ahead with whatever she was about to say.
She nodded back at her.
Izu couldn’t believe his eyes. They were speaking in codes and he was the jew-man who knew nothing about what was going on.
“I am sorry Izu. But, I couldn’t keep away from you longer and I couldn’t keep Izuchukwu Jnr. away from his father anymore. He needs you, I need you…we all need you Izu. Please have us back.”
Again, a coin dropped!!!
Finally, this story comes to an end! Thanks for following the story all the way to the end. I am honoured to have you coming back to read here.
It has been a joy-ride, yes?
This story was borne out of a concept that I had examined many times with friends – whether it was possible for a man to fall in love with two women, the emotions almost same if not entirely same. Interestingly, I have found more women being the na-sayers, while the men are more inclined to accept its plausibility.
Now, I ask – is this a result of gender prodding?
Meanwhile, some of those who accepted the plausibility of this notion based their argument on gender ratio (numerics), religion, culture (polygamy etc). Of course, the argument is ongoing.
What is your own take?
Of course, the whole story can’t be all perfect . If you spot anything, please do not hesitate to point it out. I hear some of y’all have had challenges leaving comments. All you need to do is to click the comment box, type you comment and click the “post comment” button.
It’d be nice to hear your thoughts people. Does the end of this story capture it the way you have imagined it? Does it even ring true for you? It’d be nice to know what you guys feel after reading this story, or even before.
To my two very good friends – Lizi and Sally, I say thank you for your own angles to the tale. It would have been nice have had you both on this piece, as was planned.
There is always another time though.
I have enjoyed writing it, have you enjoyed reading it?
The blog will be a year old on October 1, 2013. I will be marking the anniversary with another series of stories – Eggshell.
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