Iphey shook her head not quite looking her in the eye, “Is Obi sleeping?”
Ngozi peered at her closely as though she could read something off her face
“Obi is sleeping. Iphey, please go on. O gini?”
Iphey sighed, “Ngoo, I don‟t know how to say this…”
“I don‟t like all this suspense o. Whatever it is, just say it.” Ngozi snapped,
her patience running thin.
“James came to my house.He‟s alive and has been in Lagos I…I bumped into
him…in a taxi. Ngoo he looked different but I confronted him, initially he denied
it but later he came and…”
Nothing could have prepared Ngozi for those words; she stiffened barely
allowing herself to breathe. In silence, her eyes willed Iphey to continue.
“I told him I‟d have to tell you, I even suggested we come together but he said
he couldn‟t face you after everything that‟s happened.”
“Where is James?” her voice was surprisingly calm and sounded strange to
her. “Is he here? Outside?”
“No, he was gone before I could convince him…” Iphey leaned towards her,
“Ngoo, it‟s a very serious matter…infact we have to….”
Iphey was still talking as she rose to her feet and started walking towards her
“Sister, where are you going?”
Ngozi turned and smiled at her, it was a bitter smile that left her eyes cold and
empty “Iphey, you just told me that my husband who has been missing for three
years is alive and well. And not only has he been in Lagos the entire time, he‟s
also not here to tell me himself. I‟m going to bed and maybe tonight I won‟t
dream of him or wake up in tears and cry to God for him…”
Iphey stood up, “Sister, you have to hear what happened…”
That was the trigger, it was enough for her to lose it and for all the emotions
that had been locked up inside her to burst forth like a broken dam. She threw
the mug she had been holding against the back of the settee. Iphey cringed as it
bounced and then fell to the ground. Water splashed all over the light blue fabric
sofa and the matching floor tiles as the cup rolled to a stop.
“Hear what?!” Ngozi tried not to scream, to keep her voice low for Obi‟s sake.
“When he doesn‟t want to see me? I have cried every night for the past three
years! I fought off his family who wanted to declare him dead! I held our son at
night watching to make sure he‟s still breathing! And James is not here. He‟s
alive, not decaying in a grave, he can walk and he can speak so why isn‟t he
here? Iphey why isn‟t he here? He left us, he left me….” She let herself crumble
to the floor as the sobs filled her throat.
When Ngozi looked up, tears had started to run down Iphey’s face. She hated
her sister seeing her like this, so broken. She was supposed to be the older one.
Iphey crossed the distance between them, sat down and wrapped her arms
“I have to see him Iphey, I have to see him.” Ngozi mumbled into her
“You will, we‟ll find him” Iphey said firmly.
After she left, Ngozi watched as Obi slept, noting the rhythmic rise and fall of
his small chest. She remembered the scare when those doctors had told her to
prepare for the worst, when she thought that her world was coming to an end. If
she had lost Obi, she would have had nothing left to live for. Luckily they passed
through it. Obi slept now his face creased into the deep frown that signaled he
was in deep sleep. These days he insisted on sleeping only in his pyjama bottoms
and though he had been asleep for just a few hours, his small bed looked like a
riot scene with his tiny frame sprawled diagonally across the bed.
As she wandered into the kitchen to fix herself a cup of tea, she tried not to
blame James but it was hard, especially having had to bear this burden of
worrying about their child alone. After James had disappeared, their friends had
been supportive, offering words of comfort and prayers but after a year the tune
had started to change. No one could explain why he abandoned his wife and
child leaving them in such financial insecurity. They said he was dead and
advised her to remarry while she was still young, while Obi could learn to accept
another man as a father. She had refused and slowly one by one the friends grew
tired and began to keep away.
Iphey and her mother helped out as much as they could but she couldn‟t
depend on them solely, so she had fallen back on one of her hobbies and turned it
into a lucrative career. She worked from home as a baker, and on her own terms
so she could keep an eye on Obi. It had been hard when Obi had constantly
asked after his father and she had told him the same thing each time, “Daddy
traveled”. But now that he had stopped asking, how was she going to tell him the
truth. What would she even tell him? Where was James?
If there was anything worse than shit, that was what Iphey felt like as she
drove back home that fateful Monday night. It was almost eleven and she was
still out. And tomorrow was another work day. At least her car had been
repaired. She tried not to think of the incident with James and then Ngozi, and
remembered she had wrapped the day up by „cooking beans‟, a banker‟s slang
that meant she and thus the bank had not been able to balance their books for the
day. She prayed she wouldn‟t lose her job for that.
Just as she was wondering what else could possibly happen, her phone buzzed
and began to ring. Instantly she knew it was him. It was Chinedu again. She
hadn‟t realized how much she had been waiting for his call until it actually came
while she was with James earlier. She couldn‟t take it then and had switched off
the phone while with Ngoo but now she would. She immediately parked by the
side of the road and started rummaging through the junk she had dumped on the
passenger seat for her phone.
“Damn” she thought, it was now when she really wanted to pick a call that
the phone would be under the pile. By the time she found the phone the call had
finished, she read the text and decided to pay him a visit. She sent off a text to
Aisha and then Bisi as back-up of where she was going.
It took half an hour before she got there. As she parked her car outside, she
noticed a car that looked somewhat familiar but she didn‟t pay it much attention.
Just as she was getting to the door it suddenly opened; and out came……
“Bisi?” Iphey couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Oh, hi Iphey how you doing?” replied Bisi with a smile on her face.
“Wha…what are you doing here?” asked Iphey.
“I just came to pay Chinedu a visit. You nko?”
Chinedu came out with a jacket in his hand “Bisi, your…” The words were
stopped in their tracks by the sight before him
“Thanks darling.” Bisi collected the jacket with a smile and walked away.
Chinedu walked closer to his new visitor. “Iphey…” She stood there in his
driveway like she had just taken a bullet to the heart.
“Is that all she forgot?” There was so much shock in her voice.
“Iphey I can explain…”
“There‟s really nothing to explain,” she scratched the back of her neck. “I
guess I‟ll just be on my way, goodbye.”
She turned away quickly to hide the tear that was making its way down her
“But you came here for something…”
“It doesn‟t matter anymore!”
“No, wait. Iphey, it‟s not what you think. Nothing happened I swear it.”
“Funny, I don‟t remember saying anything.” She ran the final steps to her car.
To think that she had thought to ask his help for her sister’s problem. She had
been so excited to read his text, but it was all a sham.
“SHIT!” shouted Chinedu as he punched his palm and let out a string of
Cupid must sure be having a very good laugh with himself playing these silly
games. He wished he had never opened that door, damn he so wished he had
never opened that door.