Doctor Julius, Olivier’s father was a giant of a man, six feet tall with broad shoulders and heavy arms befitting a wrestler than the surgeon he was. Tonight he was off work for he only worked four times a week in the hospital. And whenever he was home, he insisted that the family ate together in the dinning.
Dinner was eba and egusi soup. The kids, Tony and the couple sorrounded the table, eating.
‘Where is Olivier?’ the man asked.
‘In her room,’ Olivier’s step-mother replied curtly.
‘Is she well at all? I haven’t set my eyes on her today.’
‘Daddy, she no well,’ Andy offered.
‘Shut up your mouth,’ his mother snapped. ‘I have warned you against talking while eating, haven’t I?
‘But mummy it is true, she is plegnant.’
The molded eba covered with egusi travelling to Olivier’s father’s mouth fell off his palm. Instantly, his hairy face crowded dangerously. ‘Boy, what did you say?
‘Olivier is plegnant.’
The silence that followed humbled the graveyard and hovered above their heads like evil birds. Slowly, Olivier’s father rose to his feet, his eyes locked on his wife’s dismayed face.
‘Is my daughter pregnant?’
It wasn’t really a question; it was more of a statement, a bomb, waiting for the trigger to explode.
‘Julius, j-just calm down,’ Olivier’s step mother pleaded.
Tony sat on his seat, paralysed, gaping, stupid.
Julius’ fists clenched and unclenched. ‘IS MY DAUGHTER PREGNANT!’
No one saw it coming, it just happened. The table, plates, soup, eba, all gave way and scattered unto the tiles.
The step mother’s dress was ruined with red-white egusi. She was known to be tough, but even she wasn’t a match to this righteous fury. ‘Julius! Stop this!’ she shifted back as the masquerade walked towards her on the dangerous space the overturned table had made.
‘You haven’t answered my question,’ Olivier’s father’s voice shook with frustrated energy.
Simultaneously, the kids fell on their knees between father and mother, weeping that their father forgave their mum.
The doctor looked down at the tearful children and stopped in his track for a moment. The distraction was a great opportunity for Olivier’s step mother who seized it with both hands. ‘Julius, look at the kids, consider them. We should protect them from such display. You go upstairs while I take the kids to their bed. I will explain everything… It’s my fault, yes, but you deserve to know everything. But not here, not before this kids, dear. Please, dearest husband.’
These words could have moved the heart of a sculpture; it only threw Julius in a state of indecision. Then his GSM phone on the cushion began to ring.
Another appreciated diversion. ‘Please go pick your call. You are probably needed at the hospital to save a life. Please, dear, you got to go. We shall talk about this in a calmer mood. We—’
Julius turned sharply and began to walk away. It wasn’t his wife’s voice that moved him as much as the ‘Daddy please’ that the children were tearfully singing. The man stopped before the cushion were his phone lay, picked it up, scowled at it then smashed it at the wall with a paroxysm of disgust.
Olivier sat on her bed with her head resting on her step mother’s shoulder. The novelty of this affection, and the fact that it was coming on the heels of a serious breach of confidence on her part, was too much for Olivier, she wept freely, wetting her guardian’s shirt with tears. Her step mother allowed her cry her fill before she began to talk. ‘Your father is very upset with us, Olivier.’
Olivier nodded. It was the first time Olivier’s step mother called her Olivier. It used to be ‘you’, ‘hey’ ‘look here’, all.
‘I know,’ Olivier shook with the electricity of tears.
‘We are going to explain everything to him, Olivier.’
The step mother sighed. ‘Olivier, I need a favour from you.’
Olivier had never felt so secured before; she would give her step mother her hide if only she asked.
‘Olivier, I don’t want you to tell your father that Tony is responsible for your pregnancy.’
Olivier unburied her face from the other’s shoulder and looked at her face. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘I know you don’t, but I know your father more than you do, if he finds out that Tony is responsible for your pregnancy, he is going to kill all of us. That is if he survives the shock of knowing. Your father, he is a very tough man, but he has the heart of a woman. We can’t afford to shock him, dear.’
‘But Tony is responsible…’
‘But your father shouldn’t know that Tony is responsible!’ the step mother countered; she sensed it wouldn’t pay to play hardball with Olivier, so she said in a low voice, ‘It is just a favour, Olive, and it is not forever. After the storm we may tell your father the truth, but not now.’
Olivier resumed crying.
‘Do you have any boyfriend in this street or in school, someone who could take the place of Tony for now?
Olivier shook her head. ‘I don’t have a boyfriend.’
‘Don’t tell me that tra—I mean, don’t you even have an admirerr, someone we can use in place of Tony?’
‘I do, but he has never touched me, in fact I hate him, I—’
‘What is his name?’
‘He is not my boyfriend, we are not even close.’
‘What is his name?’
‘I—I—his name is Emmanuel, no, no; he is Nicholas.’
Olivier’s mother allowed a little evil grin.
‘Yes, I quarrelled with him today. I-I even vomited on his face.’
The older woman knew she had struck gold.
‘You vomited on his face because he is responsible for your pregnancy and refused to accept it, huh?
Olivier was taken aback by this sudden change of mood.
‘That is the story we will tell his parents,’ the woman said. ‘Tony made you pregnant but officially, the guy responsible is Nicholas. Is that understood?’
Olivier locked eyes with her step mother, determined to stand her ground and insist on Tony, but such was the heat of oppression and intimidation in the other’s eyes that Olivier was forced to rescind her pose. Slowly, she nodded I understand.
Nicholas stood in a semi-circle of four of his mates, near the assembly ground. It was mid-morning and they were laughing at him over yesterday. A thin boy with two angry veins on his neck demonstrated the mirth.
‘Olivier said to him, ‘‘leave me alone, I don’t love you, leave me’’. But he refused so she did ooouuk then prapraprapra on his face.’
The group dissolved in a guffaw.
‘Me, if a girl vomit on my face, she must cry,’ said a big-headed fellow.
‘Me, she will die, I will not stop beating her till she die,’ said the third, a narrow escape from albinism.
‘Omo, that girl really got him,’ the first boy continued to demonstrate. ‘Look, ‘‘Olivier, I love you’’; ‘’leave me alone.’’ ‘’But I love you’’. ‘’Leave me, one, two, ooooooouuck…’
‘Prapraprapraprapra,’ completed the others in a great feast of laughter.
Nicholas felt like shooting all the boys down but he knew better than show his displeasure. ‘You people don’t know anything,’ he said. ‘That girl is my babe.’
‘Hey,’ his friends exploded with unbelief.
‘If you like agree, if you like don’t agree but that girl is my babe and I have even slept with her.’
‘If you think Nicho have slept with Olivier text ‘joke’ to 419 to get one week free jokes daily,’ said the thin, veins-infested fellow. The others laughed again.
Nicholas became desperate to have them believe him. ‘Nonsense, what is so special about Olivier.’ He hissed. ‘Is she a virgin?’
‘But what? See, that girl is an easy ride. I have slept with her, I swear. How many times! She is just angry that I no longer give her attention. Don’t you know girls? I have banged the girl jor.’
‘Where did you do it?’
‘In our house now. My mother always stay in school for lesson and my father is in Jos.’
‘Why you didn’t tell us before?’
‘Because as per matured guy, I can’t tell you my runs secret. But since the chick wants to take it this way, no need to cover her yansh. Rubbish.’
The boys were in a state of reluctant belief when their form Master appeared to say that Nicholas was needed in the principal’s office.
Nicholas was surprised to see his mother who taught in this school, Olivier and a couple that looked like Olivier’s parents in the principal’s office. His already tumultuous heartbeat was now beating a hurricane in his chest. What could be wrong?
‘Is that the boy?’ asked the man who looked like Olivier’s father. Olivier nodded.
‘So you are the rascal who impregnated my daughter, right?’
‘I didn’t do anything,’ Nicholas stammered.
‘Do you know Olivier?’ the principal asked him.
‘How do you know her?’
‘Have you ever slept with her?’ the form master was blunt.
‘Why then did she vomit on your body yesterday?’ the form master hurled.
‘Because, because, because, because…’
‘Because what, you fool!’ Olivier’s step mother flared.
‘Point of correction, my son is not a fool!’
‘Yes, you are right; your son is a bastard!’
‘It is you and your prostitute daughter that are bastards. How dare you come here and abuse my family because of a wayward girl…’
A shouting match sparked in the office that took the sane adults at least ten minutes to put out. ‘We shouldn’t quarrel about this,’ the principal was breathless. She had a strong hunch that Nicholas was being made the scape goat. She noticed that Olivier suspiciously avoided eyes contact with him, and saw through the fake hysterics of Olivier’s step mother. It wasn’t normal. But because she didn’t want to appear soft on such a grave issue, she decided to buy time. Turning to Nicholas form master she said, ‘Go call me Nicholas’ friends. They are key witnesses in this matter.’
As the form master left the office, the realisation of the situation cut through Nicholas’ heart. He had just burst of having slept with Olivier. Now his friends, under official pressure would give him away! Hot tears began to flow down his face.
At this stage, Olivier, watching Nicholas with the tail of her eye could no longer go on with this deceit. Nicholas could be a brut, but even Nicholas didn’t deserve this.
‘I have a confession to make,’ Olivier blotted out.
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