A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
Ivie chopped the beefs into suitable sizes and poured them into the boiling water. She rotated the cooker’s regulator and placed a cover on the pot.
Her mum stuffed the tomatoes into a blender and plugged its wire to the wall socket. The tomatoes churned and brought with it squashing noises.
“You’re going to marry that criminal,” her mum said in Esan.
Ivie pretended as though the noise from the blender and her distance from her mum prevented her from hearing.
Her mum asked again with an upped voice.
Ivie glanced at her. “I don’t know, mama, and I wouldn’t like to talk about it.”
“You have to. It’s your future.” She turned off the blender, poured some water into it and continued with her blending. “Come help me wash the remaining tomatoes,” she said, definitely to stay close and avoid the shouting.
Ivie washed her hands in the sink and fetched water into a bowl. She sat on a stool by her mum and transferred the tomatoes into the bowl.
“I won’t let you near that man, Mé wa kha. You heard his testimony in court. He is a criminal.”
She scrapped the sticky dirt at the head of a tomato. “What can I do? Right now, the only thing on my mind is Rick’s freedom. That’s the only thing I want to think of.”
Mama picked up the washed tomatoes and stuffed them in the blender. With every rotation of the blades, the tomatoes churned and splashed its red all over the covering glass. “Your Richard would be free. He has a good lawyer, and the victim testified the truth, what else—.”
“Mama, if you had seen the judge’s eyes when the prosecutor brought up the 2004 case, you wouldn’t be saying this. I don’t think the woman puts much weight on Bakare’s testimony, but it remains our only hope. The State strongly believes Richard committed the crime and they have evidences that point directly.”
Mama opened the blender. A splash of the bloody red semiliquid landed on her nose. She wiped it off with the edge of her wrapper and continued her blending without talking. Ivie wished the whole cooking could go like that, but it was not possible.
“What about the woman whom the victim claimed shot him? What will be done to her?” Mama asked.
“She’s roaming free since the police don’t believe Bakare’s testimony. They refused to follow up on it.”
“Why?” The wrinkles in mama’s face clustered. “You mean they didn’t arrest that woman?”
“The last time I saw her, she was a free woman.”
“What if she runs away and the police find her guilty?”
They are the police. Nothing concerned them. Their job was not to find out who committed the crime but to decide who went into jail and who came out, who would be deemed guilty or not. She scraped the skin of a tomato.
Mama gazed at her blender. “That man, Bakare,” she muttered, “he would be imprisoned if Richard is set free.”
Yes, he would.
“Are you willing to get married to a prisoner?”
She dropped a tomato into the bowl. “I don’t know.”
“The man testified because of the hope you gave him, the hope of getting married to him. You bargained with him.”
She remained silent. There was nothing to say.
Mama raised head to her. “You’ve tried seeing him since when he testified?”
No, she hadn’t. She rubbed the fruit’s red flesh. “I don’t know what to do. He proposed to me and I said a yes. The bargain was the only hope for Richard, and I don’t regret it. Even with all these doubts about Bakare’s testimony, it’s still the only speck of hope I have that Richard might not be spending eternity in that hell.” She focused on the tomatoes reddening the water. “He testified with his freedom at stake, kept his end of the bargain, and now what do I do?”
Mama shook her head ruefully. “You should never have agreed to his proposal.”
“Then I would watch a man sentenced to jail on my head.”
“If Richard was sentenced to jail, he would certainly come out. You know how it goes for elites like him; they don’t stay in there for long.”
That rule didn’t seem to have been followed. He was locked for over half a year without bail. If the police could lock him up, then they could do anything. Be him an elite or not.
Mama poured the remaining tomatoes into the blender, placed the lid atop and pressed her hand against it so that the splashing liquid will not escape the lid. “You’ll have to do something. You bargained with your future. If you heed to that bargain, your future would be at risk.” She looked at her as if saying be warned.
“What’s there in marrying a man, a man who walked to you and proposed?”
“It’s something that affects the whole of one’s life. If you can put your life on the line, think of your children, my grandchildren. When you marry a man, you must bear him children. And a child has his father’s blood. A father’s path must affect his child.”
Ivie braced her palms and rested her jaw on them. “What if he has changed? What if he can change? If he ends up arrested, he wouldn’t spend long in prison since he brought himself in.”
“Your life is too big to rest on a pile of what ifs. He lied for someone that robbed a bank; he proposed to you as a criminal, and you never knew. You would never know if he changes or not. Even if he tells you he has. Your dad and I have stayed this long because I didn’t make this mistake you’re about making.”
The beef pot’s cover began trembling. Ivie rose for it. She sprinkled in some salt and lowered the cooker’s temperature.
She returned to her mum and continued with the tomatoes. Her mum focused on her blending and attempted no talk. Ivie enjoyed the quiet, which was much better than arguing whom to marry and whom not to.
She held the crucifix of her rosary and did a little prayer. The end shouldn’t be so bad.
To Be Continued….