WHAT LIES BENEATH
By AMAH’S HEART.
We all sat after exchanging pleasantries with the village men and women gathered to witness the introduction.
I saw my Dad and his friend whispering something to themselves.
Mr Benson said something and my Dad nod in return.
Then my Dad was doing most of the whispering while Mr Benson will continuesly nod his head.
I wondered what they were talking about. Whispering among themselves like two gossipers.
Just the thought of it makes me want to laugh.
My Mom was surprisingly calm and collected. She appears like a woman that carries herself with charisma.
Kolanut and garden eggs with groundnut pepper source were offered to us first.
After blessings, my Dad gave Mr Benson who broke the kolanut and p@ssed it round.
I don’t know if it was my head playing tricks on me but right in there, something was amidst with either my Dad or Mr Benson.
Either one of them but my @ssumption was probably because we were seated among strange people.
After sometime, my Dad stepped outside with Mr Benson, I can see that even my Mom was already getting suspicious.
What is this men’s problem?
I thought within my mind as my Dad walked out with his friend.
I was about standing to go and ask my Dad what was going on when Eziaku’s mother came to welcome us.
Eziaku was her replica. She so much looks like her mother even the way they talks.
Their voice sounds the same.
She was all smiles as she greeted my Mom and then me before going back.
She couldn’t greet my Dad because he was out with his friend.
We have already met Eziaku’s grandma. She was seated among the village men and women’s gathered.
They said we have to eat first before we proceed with the main reason that brought us.
It was tradition and the way things are done in their place.
I just hope the food won’t affect me because ever since the days of Oby, that I ate all manner of things during my first visit and my stomach went into war with me. Ever since them I made up my mind to be sure of whatever I take in.
As they were pres£nting the whole food that was prepared, I silently hope with the ill feeling I kept having hope is not a sign of warning.
Maybe I will eat the simple ones I understand and Skip the rest.
I looked towards the direction my Dad and his friend went to and they are still not coming.
Eziaku’s Mom were among the people that served the food
I whispered to my mom that I was going to call my Dad and his friend.
I went outside towards where we parked the cars and there they were.
“Dad… what’s going on. Eziaku’s people are calling you in there. Is everything alright?
“Yes son, everything is fine…we only came out to discuss something important which we can’t do in the pres£nce of our in-laws. is there a problem?
He replied calmly and asked me the last question with so much worries in his eyes
“I don’t know dad..I don’t know why I feel weird. Let me excuse my whole feeling to be marriage fever. finally getting after a very long toss and turn and it was this same village I had my first failed marriage encounter many years ago…
My Dad spoke.
“Are you having cold feet over proceeding with the Marital rit?
He sounds like he was trying to discourage me from getting married to Eziaku.
But my Dad endorsed her already as the right woman for me, he said she has an aura that connects with his person, he doesn’t know why but she was going to make a great wife and mother.
I remember his every word back in Lagos, what I don’t understand is why he was trying to sound discouraging at this dying minutes.
Or was it my mind making the tune of his word to sound like he was trying to discourage me.
“No Dad, I’m not having cold feet. My mind is totally made up. Please let’s go back and join the gathering so we can finalize with the main purpose of why we came… Mom is the only one in there and is not right.
My Dad nodded while his friend responded.
“That’s right Austin. Go ahead we are coming behind you…”
I went back inside and just when my Mom was asking of my Dad we saw them coming.
Food was served round and we ate the little that we can.
I avoided the Palm wine. Mr Benson drank little but my Dad didn’t. He apologized that he was okay with the malt because his system does not go well with palmy.
After the food and drinks like they insisted they feed their visitor first before main discussion.
We entered into the introduction proper.
Eziaku’s grandma was there except Eziaku and her Mom.
Mr Benson introduced us, he spoke on our behalf and the main reason that brought us.
We were welcomed ones again, Eziaku was called inside and she sat at a far end with two other ladies.
I looked over at her and our eyes met.
I smiled and she returned the smile.
They appreciated us again for coming and the man who was like a spoke person or the villagers repres£ntative stood and addressed us all as he listed the required things that needs to be pres£nted for the introduction and if we are ready for the list negotiation is also available.
I love the way they were doing things. I know is the required traditional rite but they makes it very easy for everyone to Understand.
My Dad was quiet, Mr Benson was doing little of the contribution in response.
Is not proper for me to speak when my parents are around, I decided to keep quiet.
I will only speaks when I’m asked to do so.
We were ready to pay up everything today so that next time we come down it will be for the traditional wedding.
Considering where we are coming from, is better we finalize properly today and move on to the next step.
Mr Benson after whispering sometime with my Dad. I saw my Dad shaking his head.
I don’t understand the shaking of head which supposed to be a no.
Maybe he does not agree with what Eziaku’s people are saying or what Mr Benson said.
I was happy that everything was already moving on fine.
Just then, Eziaku’s Mom came in with two other women to clear off the table filled with used plates.
I have seen how she glance towards where my Dad sat.
I never made a big deal out of it until she came again. Stood behind her mother that’s Eziaku’s grandma.
I’m a very observant person, she looked from my Dad side, looked at my Mom and back to me.
I can’t tell if she was looking at my Dad or Mr Benson.
She looked at me again and our eyes met and she looked away.
She Looked towards my Dad again before whispering something to her mother.
Her mother looked up at her, shocked was written all over her.
Eziaku’s grandma looks towards my Dad.
My Dad seems to be avoiding their gaze as he tries to concentrate as Eziaku’s people went on listing out things and the amount in place of the items needed for marriage rites.
I remember my Dad discussing with Mr Benson that he has been to Eziaku’s village.
It sound more like him trying to remind his friend of the time.
I still wonder what brought him all the way down here.
Eziaku’s grandma and Mother walked away. Eziaku’s mother glanced back towards my dad’s side before finally leaving.
I guess Eziaku s£nsed it and followed behind.
I wish right where I was seated I could also follow to know what exactly was going on.
My Dad excused himself to receive a call. My gut tells me that something was fishy.
My Dad probably used the phone call to step out.
Suddenly, everything started making s£nse.
Fear gripped me, as my heart began to summersaults. I felt cold all of a sudden.
Eziaku never knew her Dad who was from the City and moved back to the city after mating with her Mom.
Many years ago my Dad came to this village from the city.
My dad’s seems uncomfortable ever since we were seated here and his discomfort became obvious when Eziaku’s Mom showed up.
“God please forbid it… don’t let it be what I’m thinking” no…no… please God. Erase this disturbing thoughts and fear in my head.
When I was thinking of going outside to confront my Dad and hope silently he denies my fear, just then he came back inside and sat down.
The list was finalized and was agreed on by my parents.
Alot of thinking was running through my mind and I wondered why this very important time of my life.
I can’t explain my fear in words and as I silently hope is not true yet more sickening ideas kept swimming in my mind.
Eziaku came back inside, she was moody and looks troubled.
I guess her grandmother s£nt her back inside.
This is the time I only wish for one thing which is to become a mind reader.
My Dad stood to speak as he tries to negotiate with the given list.
Why is he negotiating? he has the money, I have the money and we can even give them double of whatever they were requesting without feeling any lost.
My Dad was only looking for a way to opt out of the whole thing, I already know what was going on even though I wish is not true but his attitude kept putting him off.
I love Eziaku so much, I have come a very long way and just when things were begining to look greeny another strike hit h@rd.
Never, I won’t accept this. They should rather kill me because I won’t back down on this.
How exactly will I start all over again
Where will I start from?
I prayed fervently for this day. I implored God to take absolute control. I begged God to take charge and not let anything to go wrong.
Why has he decided to forsake me and make me a laughing stalk. Why did he watch things keep going from bad to worst without doing anything to help me out.
I confessed my wrong doings, condemned them all, pleaded for his mercies. I try to be upright and seek him more than ever.
I did everything I can yet bad luck kept following me up and down.
I won’t be able to survive this kind of b!0w staring right in front of me. No, I won’t.
Everything pressing me down to frustrates my life should save their strength and take the life instead because I’m truly done trying.
Suddenly Eziaku’s grandma rushed in. She pointed at my Dad who was still standing and speaking.
“Your son can not marry my granddaughter…mba o (no), is not possible. Over my dead body will such happen…”
She mixed up her Igbo with pidgin English but everyone understands what she was talking about.
It was as if everyone stopped breathing at that moment.
Everywhere fell silent only our competitive breathing and heart beats can be h@rd.
My Dad was not looking surprised. everything was confirming my fear.
Is better I run off from here than to watch the unfolded drama to unfold right under my eyes.
The men there who did not understand what came over her asked her what was the problem.
they said she was happy earlier, she welcomed us happily when we arrived, Sat and watched how everything was being processed only for her daughter, who happens to be the bride’s mother to take her outside and she came back inside with so much anger.
“… is a total abomination before God and man. His son can’t marry my Eziaku…
My Mom stood up and asked her Why. She challenged the elderly woman to state her reasons.
My Dad remained standing he neither looks surprised or shocked.
He looked at Mr Benson who seems a little bit uptight.
“…Your sin has finally caught with you, we recognized you. You may look older but your face haven’t changed one bit, is almost thirty years and our parts crosses again… this is what you men do and thought you will always get away with it. Look at the implications of your deed twenty eight years ago… I hope my grand daughter haven’t gotten intimate with your son oo. Oh Chim oo…chukwu aju. (God forbids it)
She turned to Eziaku and asked her to stand.
From all indication, Eziaku was right when she said her grandmother was a tough woman. She mixed both the Igbo and English so that everyone can atleast understand.
“… Ezi, my precious daughter. biko, don’t lie to me or to the people here. Say the whole truth so that we can know where to start from. Have you in anyway, knowingly or unknowingly gotten intimate with this man’s son, who was supposed to be your husband?
Eziaku was confused but she shakes her head that she haven’t.
“… Good, I trust you. You have never lied to me…I believe you. Let God be praise” the elderly woman said to Eziaku as she sat back down.
It was like my spirit left me and it was only my body seated there. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me again.
I’m not sure I will be able to survive this time because I’m truly tired.
Even as my Mom kept asking what was the problem. Eziaku’s grandma replied.
“…. maybe you should start asking your husband what exactly he did to my daughter twenty eight years ago. He came to this village from the city with his friend, deceived and impregnate my daughter. He lied that he was single and not married but looking at your son, he is older than my granddaughter. After my daughter missed her monthly flow two weeks later, she traced him down to the hotel he was lodging with his friend and was able to get him but he refused taking responsibility for it. He said my daughter was lying and wants to pin him down with pregnancy, he already has a woman in Lagos that he planned to get married to. My daughter told me that his friend was there and witnessed everything. His friend even try talking to him to atleast take responsibility of the child or give some money to my daughter for upkeep but he kept insisting that it was all a cooked up lie from my daughter which he won’t fall for. It was his friend that later gave some money to my daughter and they left that hotel that same day, either returned backto the city or they went to another hotel. Nothin was heard of them ever since… untill now.
My Mom looked from my Dad to the elderly woman who was vibrating and ready for a b!0w.
Everyone exclaimed, The whole place became noisy.
Our introduction was obviously ruined. Eziaku sat h@rd on chair with total shock.
Her body was shaking as she placed her two hands on her head like she was mourning for a loved one death.
“You’re mistaking my husband for someone else mama. I trust him with my entire being… and I can tell you clearly that he is not the one and will never do such. Even if he fell somehow and got entangled with your daughter, he won’t abandon her like you stated. My husband has his fault but there are things I know he will never do. There’s a mix-up somewhere mama, and we have been married for over thirty-five years. He was not single man twenty eight years ago and I know he can’t deny his family like you mentioned that the man that got your daughter pregnant did.
One of the men asked my Mom to stop defending my Dad and let him speak for himself.
“… ofcourse he will speak but just to let everyone know that my dear husband is innocent. I know the man I married and have lived with for almost forty years. It can’t possibly be him…or…
My Mom turned to my Dad and called him his pet name like she used to do.
“…Je, did you by chance got drunk twenty eight years ago and did everything this people accused you off? I know you are not much of a drinker so getting drunk is even out of the question. I know you did not do it and my spirit confirms it but I want you to tell me the truth in the pres£nce of this whole people gathered…did you in anyway do any of this things they accuse you off?
My Dad sat h@rd on a chair and held his head. I felt like going over there and strangling him.
What has he done. His past come back to destroy us all.
I was deeply troubled for myself, for my Mom who trusted my father and for Eziaku who appears unstable.
What else lies beneath this life that I haven’t encountered. What could be higher than this b!0w.
“Oh God, this was not in our agreement. You have brought me to dust, you have watched my enemies gloat over me and made a feast over my head. What else is worth living for…oh God, how gravy is my unforgivable fault that is beyond cleansing. Where can I go from here… take my life instead because I really don’t know what I’m living for. I…I..
Emotions choked through my throat with my head bent and tears began to drop to the ground.
I felt transfixed in my seat. It was as if I needed a h@rd kick to get up.
My Mom continued
“…Je. say something. Take a look at your son, take a look at Ezi… they’re both devastated. They don’t deserve this… is too much to bear. I trust you Je, please tell me none of this is true. I’m ready to pay for a DNA test to ascertain the truth if you’re truly the father of Ezi…deep within me my spirit is undeniable strong. There is a mistake… but you need to say something. Even if it was you… tell everyone here, let’s know the way forward. I can’t bear to watch our son go through this pain…is too much for Christ sake…”
My Dad suddenly cleared his voice and said
“I’m not the one Didi…it wasn’t me. That was all my Dad said while looking at my Mom and she believed him.
Eziaku’s grandma flew into action as he called my Dad a liar.
“You’re lying, if you didn’t then who did? You’re lying and God bear me witness today that you won’t get away with this. Your sin finally visited you after twenty eight years and is going to eat like a rust in your family. It has already started with your son…looked at what a short pleasure and denial have caused you and everyone dear to you. My happiness is that my granddaughter never got intimate with your son… there would have been a big problem if they have unknowingly gotten intimate.
Mr Benson stood as he tries to calm the situation that was looking escalated already.
“My friend, Jerry is right…he wasn’t the one…
There was another uproar, it seems everyone was talking at the same time.
Mr Benson tries to get their attention but they wouldn’t let him speak because they felt he was trying to defend his friend and cover him up.
I wondered why my Mom was still believing my Dad and also defending him.
Eziaku suddenly screamed so loud making the whole place went dead quiet.
She held her head as tears ran down her face..
Just then her mother who has been outside and had refused to come back inside after stepping out earlier rushed inside when she heard Eziaku’s scream.
Eziaku’s grandma seeing her daughter started saying.
“Oluchi, he is denying it. He said he was never the one. His wife and friend supported him… did you see now? The man is denying it…”
Oluchi, Eziaku’s mother charged towards Mr Benson.
“Ben, how could you still lie, you and your friend were on business trip and we met in town where i was learning how to sew cloth, we went talking Ben…and you asked your friend to please drive me back to my village that day and he agreed. He was the owner of the car and while we drove on, we sat at the back and you went touching me and promising me heaven and Earth. You people dropped me right in this my compound and you asked me to visit you in the hotel and I foolishly agreed. We got intimate and I never saw you again and when I discovered I was pregnant I Came searching for you in the hotel but you refused to accept the pregnancy. I remember your friend calling you aside and asking you not to deny me like that because we both had a thing together and your friend was a witness but you refused and said I wanted to rub the pregnancy on you. You mentioned how you have a fiance in Lagos that you planned to marry ones you go back. You left the hotel with your friend that same day because, I came back looking for You the following day and you were both gone. I still recognized your friend… I’m surprised that both you are still friends even till date. Because after what you did to me, I was never expecting anything good to come from you or even to have a nice person as this your friend to still be by your side. Ben, you almost made me commit suicide, I almost killed myself after everything…I couldn’t continue with my apprenticeship program that I was doing. I have to stay home because the shame was too much. After giving birth to Eziaku I had to abandon her with my mother. It was mama that named her, nursed her, cared for her like her own. Without wasting time, I thought my life was over and got married to the first man that showed interest in me. You ruined my life Ben… you ruined my life and still have the gut to deny it…
Now, I was not the only confused here. Eziaku’s mother was referring to Mr Benson not my Dad.
My Dad’s name is Jeremiah, everyone calls him Jerry except my Mom that calls him Je. He was seated why Mr Benson who tries to explain things earlier couldn’t get through because people thought he was trying to defend his friend was the one standing.
Eziaku’s mother, Oluchi was referring to Mr Benson not my Dad and that got us all confused.
Even her mother asked her.
“, Oluchi wait…wait. which of the men are you really taking about. Because it was the one sitting down that I thought was the Ben. Which one do you think is Eziaku’s father…?
Oluchi pointed at Mr Benson.
“Is this one mama, his name is Ben. Is this one right here, even after hundred years I will still recognize him. His friend was married but Ben wasn’t. He told me he had a woman he wanted to marry that time, she was in Lagos. I thought he will never set foot in this village again. So he even had a son then and now he’s here to marry his sister…chai, umunwoke (men) is only God that will judge you for everything you made me go through and still denying it… Ben…aah, this life is deeper than we thought o. Ben, so fate brought you down to my village again with your son…? Heeeyyy…!
This was a total misunderstanding.
All this time I was thinking my Dad was the one and how he has ruined our lives without his past mistakes but I suddenly felt relieved after realizing it was actually Mr Benson.
It was Mr Benson she was referring to and not my Dad.
Oh my goodness!
My Mom was right then, she knows her husband so well to have stood strong and defended him like she did.
Mr Benson continued standing while my Dad remained seated. They both seem calm and quiet as Oluchi went in ranting.
Our introduction today is obviously ruined with this whole misunderstanding and drama.
What lies beneath Episode 42
WHAT LIES BENEATH