Have you read chapter 3?
It was a public holiday. Everyone was in the house. It was also one of the few times that Biola did not dominate the television. So everyone saw a Nollywood movie in peace and silence. Then a call came in. It was Pastor Fire, the head pastor at Fire and Thunder Revival Church. Pastor Fire changed his name from Babatunde Fayemi to Achiever Fire, saying the former name was satanic, and affecting his destiny because Babatunde is about reincarnation, and Fayemi gives credence to Ifa, a deity.
As Biola answered the call, Maxwell turned down the volume of the television, and unplanned, everyone listened to Biola`s side of the conversation, but pretended not to.
“Good morning sir.”
“We`re all fine sir.”
“I`ll be there sir.”
The call ended, and no one needed to explain that everyone had at least a question. Everyone could guess that it was Pastor Fire, however, they wanted to know where Biola was going, and for what reason. Only Ngozi had the boldness to ask, and she did, after about five minutes of silence.
“So where are you going?”
“PF (as Pastor Fire is usually called) wants us to pray for a woman who`s been barren for five years.”
“Oh, okay,” she responded, and she was quiet for a short while before she continued, “Only the woman?”
“Who should follow her?” Biola answered as if he didn`t understand Ngozi`s point.
“For her to be expecting a child, she must have a husband,” Ngozi responded with the even-an-idiot-should-know-that voice.
“But it is the woman that is barren,” Biola said defiantly.
“Who confirmed this? Who ran tests on both…” Ngozi raised her voice.
“Excuse me, madam! You want her husband to follow her for prayers?” Biola too raised his voice, interrupting Ngozi.
At this time, Busola and Adedoyin took quick glances at each other.
“But why can`t he attend the prayer meeting? Can`t he be the one who has issues? Is a hospital not the first place they should visit? Do you know if the man is impotent?”
“Ngozi, it is usually women that have problems when…”
“Says who? Says who Biola? Do you know how many men have erectile dysfunction and low sperm count? Do you know how women hide such matters and suffer in silence?”
At this time, Biola was uncomfortable. He felt attacked. He made efforts to end the conversation.
“Ehen, Adedoyin and Busola, have you gone to register for your UTME?”
“Not yet Daddy, we`re registering tomorrow,” Busola answered.
“Why tomorrow? You`re procrastinating till it closes?” Biola said, agitated.
“But you gave us the money just yesterday,” Adedoyin said, sounding unbothered by Biola`s agitation.
“Anyway, so what courses are you choosing this time?” Biola asked.
“Theatre Arts,” Busola said, excitedly.
“History and International Relations,” Adedoyin said, still sounding uninterested in the conversation.
“What kind of courses are those?” Biola asked, sounding irritated.
“Why not Law, my sweethearts,” Ngozi tried to sound loving, to make up for Biola`s attitudinal fallout.
“But why Law, Mummy?” This time, Adedoyin looked ready for a battle.
“What do you mean? What do you know? Who are you to question us? Will you pay the fees? Do you want to be jobless and poor?” Biola raised his voice, sounding even more irritated.
“Is it about what we want to study, or what you want us to study?” Adedoyin asked, trying to sound calm.
“It is about the job market and its realities, young man. It is about what a 25-year-old doesn`t understand, it is about…”
Ngozi interrupted Biola, whispering, “Let`s explain to them calmly, so that…”
“No! Who cares about calm explanations? These children are daring. I wasn`t like this in my youth. I was obedient and submissive to my parents. Look at Paul, the principal`s son; he`s a medical student. Ahmed, Alhaji`s son, studies Accounting. Then I`d be asked what my children study, then I`d say History, Theatre — singing and dancing…No way!”
All the while, Maxwell was quiet, pretending to be engrossed in his phone. He remembered how Biola engaged him in a similar conversation some years back, and subtly discouraged him from studying Computer Science which he desired, saying Engineering was better. He wasn`t willing to interfere with how Biola guided his children, and he also wasn`t going to speak just for the sake of it. Just as Maxwell was about to leave the living room where they all were, Ngozi asked his opinion, and he sarcastically and dismissively said, “I think we should pray about it,” then he left.
“Daddy, I`m studying History, not Law, and I don`t see myself ever changing that,” Adedoyin said, also leaving the living room.
Biola, Ngozi, and Busola remained in the living room, quiet, and pretending to be watching the television which was inaudible. The silence was loud after Adedoyin`s declaration. No one needed to be told that such declarations anger Biola who likes to have the final say.
They remained in this silence for about thirty minutes, then Biola left the house unannounced, going for the prayer meeting. Ngozi saw this as an opportunity to discuss with Busola, but then, she heard a knock on the door, shortly after Biola left the house. She could tell who it was from the knock. It was her cousin who lived three streets away. She visits occasionally, but unannounced.
“Amaka welcome,” Ngozi said, smiling, as she opened the door, pretending not to be disturbed by Amaka`s presence.
“Thank you, my sister, I thought I should stop by, as I…”
“Good morning, Aunty Amaka,” Busola greeted her, and left the living room before Amaka could respond. Amaka only stared at Busola as she walked out.
Amaka sat and beckoned on Ngozi to get closer. Ngozi did, and her cousin said, “My dear, this your daughter is seeing somebody oh.”
Ngozi felt uncomfortable with Amaka`s statement, and quickly remarked, “I don`t think so; what would you like to drink?”
“Drink? I`m telling you that your daughter is seeing a man, you`re talking of a drink. You had better call her and get words out of her mouth. That`s how my neighbour`s driver got her daughter pregnant; the idiot ran away”
“I will speak with Busola, but I think Busola is still a vir…”
“Virgin my foot! Can`t you see?”
Ngozi nodded, even though she did not understand what she was supposed to see.
Amaka`s visit lasted two hours, but Ngozi was absent-minded all the while. She was bothered about Busola. She got more troubled after Amaka left. She kept thinking of how to deal with the situation. Already, she had the course of study matter to deal with.
Biola returned from his prayer meeting, and as usual, he didn`t notice that Ngozi was troubled. Many thoughts ran through Ngozi`s mind.
“Should I discuss it with Biola?”
“Should I ask Busola first?”
“Since Maxwell is always in the house, would he have an idea?”
“Or is Amaka wrong?”
She decided to sleep over it, but she couldn`t sleep. It was 01:03 a.m., and she was still worried, so she went to the children`s room to wake Maxwell.
“Come, I need to have a talk with you.”
“Aunty, this night? Can`t it wait?”
“I`m sorry, it can`t.”
She led him to the living room, and they both sat in silence for about seven minutes before Ngozi finally broke the silence.
“Do you think Busola has been deflowered?”
Maxwell was afraid. His heart began to beat really fast. The sleep he struggled with during the seven-minute silence disappeared. He was confused. He had many questions but couldn`t ask any. He also couldn`t maintain eye contact with Ngozi anymore.
He finally spoke, still looking away, “What do you mean, Aunty?”
“I mean, do you think Busola has been seeing any man?”
“But what makes you ask me this?” Maxwell asked, trying to garner some courage.
“Someone told me she`s no longer a virgin.”
“I don`t think so, Aunty. I totally disagree. This Busola that I know is a good girl who wouldn`t do such.”
“Yes! And I`d advise you not to ask her, so she doesn`t begin to feel that you`ve lost trust in her. Who`s this person that told you such a thing?”
“Never mind, Maxwell. Thank you, you can go back to bed now.”
“Really? Just like that?” Maxwell asked, confused.
“I`m sorry for bothering you. Goodnight, Maxwell.”
He remained there, confused and afraid. It was as if Ngozi`s sleeplessness was transferred to him. He kept sighing and rolling on his bed. He felt there was more to Ngozi`s question. Meanwhile, Ngozi had some peace after the talk with Maxwell.
Maxwell must have slept for only thirty minutes that night, after the conversation with Ngozi, and he definitely didn`t enjoy the sleep. It was a troubled one filled with scary dreams.
Adedoyin remained adamant, saying he would study History and International Relations. Busola tried to persuade Ngozi and Biola. Ngozi said she was fine with them studying whatever they wanted, but Biola insisted that they both had to study Law. Biola’s approval is the approval, the way their family is structured.
“It`s been a week, and Daddy insists. Don`t you think we should just do what he says for now, and try to change it later?”
“Never!” Adedoyin told Busola. “He shouldn`t choose for us.”
“What if the registration closes?” Busola asked.
“We can find the money ourselves and register.”
“Are we paying our fees ourselves too?” Adedoyin fell silent.
Another week passed, and things weren`t the same in the house. Adedoyin avoided Biola. Busola was unhappy and even had a fever. They both still had the money for the registration. Ngozi was always pleading with Biola, but he insisted on the children studying Law. Maxwell avoided Ngozi and Biola.
Everyone thought Busola`s fever was as a result of the denial to study Theatre Arts. Her mother even got her to treat malaria, but she didn`t get any better. She needed to see a doctor. Doctor Erijoh asked Busola to run some tests, however, none of the results explained why she felt the way she did. He then suggested a pregnancy test.
“I reject it in the mighty name of Jesus,” Biola shouted.
“It is not possible, a virgin can`t be pregnant, only Mary was.” Ngozi exclaimed.
“But I saw my period a few days ago,” Busola said calmly.
“I suggest that she does a pregnancy test,” the doctor repeated.
“Well, if that`s what the doctor suggests, let`s just do it to clear his doubts.”
“Daddy, but I can`t be pregnant!” Busola said, almost crying.
“We understand dear, but if the doctor doesn`t do it, we can`t continue this treatment process, and we need to know…”
“No Mummy, I`m not,” Busola said, leaving the doctor`s office. Her parents followed her and tried to convince her, but she insisted that she wasn`t taking the test. They drove home in silence. Ngozi and Biola independently wondered why Busola avoided the test if she was sure she wasn`t pregnant. But no one said a thing about it.
“The doctor said I have to run a pregnancy test.” Busola told Maxwell as she woke him up at 2:30 a.m.
“Keep your voice low. So what do we do now?”
“What kind of silly question is that?”
“Did you ask me that when you kept acting like a beast?”
“But I`m always careful not to…”
“I`m telling Mummy!”
“No, please don`t!”
“I have to!”
“Don`t tell me not to shout, I`m telling her today.”
Again, Maxwell couldn`t sleep. He was afraid. Many thoughts ran through his mind, and he finally made a decision.
It was a Sunday. Ngozi had left her room to avoid Biola`s Sunday drama — the noise and smell. She thought she could get some sleep at the children`s room, then wake them to prepare for church. She was also ready for an argument with Maxwell. She got into the room and only saw Busola and Adedoyin. She assumed that Maxwell was in the restroom, but to her surprise, twenty minutes passed and she didn`t see him. She checked the restroom and other parts of the house, and still did not find him. She dialled his number, but it was switched off. Then she noticed that some of his belongings weren`t in the room, and Adedoyin noticed that the backdoor was left open, a clear indication that someone had left the house. Ngozi immediately ran into her room to alert Biola. Strangely, she didn`t meet him praying as she expected. Biola was…
…to be continued next Sunday, August 4th, 2019.
The writer is Akinsiwaju Sanya.