My plan depended on whether I will meet Aunty Ebube at the shop or Uncle Maximus. If anybody will know my mother’s family name and where they may be presently, it will be either of them. I came down from the bike close to my father’s shop. I had a scarf I had bought at the park, around my head, to hide my face. I walked quickly along the street. I was depending on the changes that I must have undergone over the years to make it difficult for anyone to recognize me on the street.
The shop was opened when I got close. I crossed to the other side of the road, and called a small child playing in the sun. I told her to help me ask for Aunty Ebube in the shop, giving her a twenty naira note. The girl ran across to the shop, while I stood to the side of the house watching her. She stood at the front of the shop for some minutes then she ran back to me.
Girl: “she no dey. Chemist say she go come later.” She said.
I thanked her and left for Uncle Maximus’ house or I hope so. “What if they had moved from there?” I thought to myself as I tried to remember where they had lived before. As the bike was about to move I changed my mind and directed the bike man to my father’s house.
The house looked smaller than I remembered it. I stared at the building sadly. This had been a place of good memories to me. I felt sad at seeing it without the laughter of Mama in the background or the booming voice of Papa. I sighed and went to the door and knocked. The door opened and Aunty Ebube stood before me. I had not expected to see her there. I had thought to ask the new owner of the house for my Uncle’s address. Mama had given his address as the place to make any inquiries. It had been a joke of hers. She always laughed at when she spoke about it.
Aunty Ebube: “yes… what can I do for you?” she asked, staring at me suspiciously. I removed the scarf and looked at her. She looked at me for a moment then her eyes widened in recognition; “Princess! What are you doing here? Does your uncle know you are here? You should not be here o. Jonathan called.” She said quickly, her eyes darting from side to side. She dragged me into the house and shut the door.
Princess: “you live here? How did you… do you have anything to do with my mother’s ailment?” I asked, confused. I had thought about Uncle Jonathan’s questions many years ago, on my way there. Then I had believed that she was guilty but now I had my doubts. I wanted to see her face as I asked.
Aunty Ebube: “me? What will I gain from making your mother mad?” she asked, surprise on her face.
I sighed and turned to look about the sitting room. It was different; the chairs, the curtains, the television set were all strange to me.
Aunty Ebube: “we paid the owners the money they paid your mother. Your uncle said she had no right to sell it without coming to him first. He was angry when he heard you moved to Kano with Jonathan. What did you do?” she said, possibly noting my gaze.
Princess: “what do you know of my mother’s people?” I asked her. Time was going and i didn’t want anyone to go and call Uncle Maximus.
Aunty Ebube: “you want to go and meet them? Do you think they will welcome you?” she asked.
Princess: “I have to find a way to protect my mother. My father’s family seems to want to turn us into sex slaves or something. I cannot look after her but her family might be able to.” I replied. She looked at me and sighed
Aunty Ebube: “Jonathan said you stole his money, that you got an abortion and injured him.” she said softly. I looked at her and I knew she didn’t even believe what she was saying.
Princess: “did he also tell you that he was sleeping with my mother and tried to rape me?” I asked, angrily. She gasped in shock then her back slumped.
Aunty Ebube: “Jonathan! That boy! I have always said that he was up to no good. What do you need?” she asked
Princess: “a name and an address would be nice but I can start with a name, if that is all that is available.” I replied.
Aunty Ebube: “your grandfather’s name is Chief Erejuwa. That is all I know. I don’t know where he lives exactly but I know he lives in Lagos in Ikeja.” She said.
“Chief Erejuwa… I will find him. He will help me whether he likes it or not.” I thought to myself. I thanked her and stood up.
Aunty Ebube: “I know my husband has never been nice to you but he is a nice person if you get to know him.” she said.
Princess: “I came to you because Mama said he was beating you and cheating on you. I felt that you will be more sympathetic to my plight as a woman that has experienced the evil in men but don’t try to teach me about my uncles. Take care of my mother for me until I come to get her please.” I replied at the door.
Aunty Ebube: “what will I be able to do?” she asked, opening her hands helplessly
Princess: “if your husband is as nice as you say, you will be able to do a lot.” I replied, harshly.
I entered Benin later in the day. I got down from the bus at Ring Road and boarded another headed for Uselu. I stopped before the hospital itself and crossed to a bar that sat adjacent to it. I ordered for a bottle of malt and sat there watching the comings and goings at the hospital entrance. Two mentally ill men were camped along the fence that marked the hospital’s boundary. I watched them as they sat like lost beings; muttering to themselves then suddenly shouting and waving about. The two men ignored each other and went about their antics, lost in their own world. “So this is what is in store for my mother for the rest of her life, if she does not get better? Never! God forbid!” I said within myself.
At about five in the evening, after a plate of fresh fish pepper soup, then a plate of foofoo and Ogbono soup for strength, I wrapped my scarf properly about my face and entered the hospital. At the reception desk, I asked to see Mama. I had earlier asked Aunty Ebube to call ahead informing them of my coming. The lady asked for my name and I told her that my name was Omena Erejuwa. That was the name I and Aunty Ebube had agreed on. She checked then she called a nurse and told him to take me to see Mama, or so I thought.
The nurse led me to an office, knocked then opened the door. Behind the desk sat a woman wearing spectacles. She saw me and smiled. I was not interested in her smile, all my focus was on the man who sat in front of her. He turned and smiled;
Uncle Maximus: “I knew you would come here. How are you?” he said.
I felt my stomach drop to the floor. Aunty Ebube had betrayed me. “I am dead.” I turned to the door expecting police men to burst into the room or worst still to come face to face with Uncle Jonathan.
Uncle Maximus: “come and sit down princess, there are things we need to talk about and things that you need to know.” He said jovially. I turned back to him suspiciously.
Princess: “if anything happens to my mother, I will make sure you pay.” I replied. He waved his hand as if I was talking rubbish.
Uncle Maximus: “I want to introduce you to a family member that you have probably never heard of.” He said, waving his hand towards the silent woman behind the desk. I looked at the woman quietly. She had no smile for me. “Meet Dr Eki Omobude. She was your father’s mistress and the mother of his son.” He said happily.
“My father had a son with another woman? That is a lie!” I thought to myself. I looked the woman over.
Princess: “I find it hard to believe. Papa loved Mama too much to cheat on her.” I replied confidently.
Uncle Maximus: “are you sure, young lady?” he asked still smiling.
Then it hit me; the night Mama had said all men are cheats. Why had Papa gone quiet and leave the house? And she has a son for Papa, which means Uncle wants to use him to claim Papa’s property.” I asked myself. I looked at the woman closely.
Princess: “you are the reason Papa and Mama quarreled. They rarely quarreled. If that is true, which I doubt, I find it hard to believe that you had a child and no one knew about him.” I said bitterly.
Dr Eki: “Your father didn’t want it out for his own reasons. I have proof of my child’s parentage; birth certificates, pictures, videos; I have them all.” She said softly. She didn’t seem happy or sad about destroying my life.
Princess: “why are you doing this? Mama will not give you my father’s properties…” I said before he cut me off.
Uncle Maximus: “I am here to make you a deal. I hear you are looking for your mother’s people.” He said.
Question: this changes everything o! A son! Chai! This could mean the end of Princess’ struggle. Do you think she should make any deals with her Uncle or should she fight for her inheritance?