Palm lines - Episode 13

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Erika's POV
"Is this some sick joke?" I blurted out vexed by the number of times we've met based on coincidence. "Are you following me? I added and he scoffed. 
"No offense, but it's my father's burial. I should be the one in the position to ask that"
"So he's your uncle?" I asked Dorcas in shock and she nodded. "Then Sharon is your cousin" I added.
"Urgh!" I grunted.
"What kind of..."
"Miss Erika?" Sharon asked in shock,she was coming out from another room . "Miss Erika!" She hugged me afterwards.
"You came!" 
"Technically, I came for Dorcas' grand father's burial. Only to find out she's your cousin and your niece" I pointed at Mr. Savage.
"Why does it look like you're blaming me?" 
"Urgh! Because the coincidence is becoming annoying!" I yelled almost going out of control. "Erika calm down" Dorcas begged. 
A lady came out clasping her hands together. "My baby is finally sleeping, I barely slept all through the night. Please lower your voice" she begged and then we heard baby cries from inside the room. 
A lady came out of the same room as Mr. Savage with a face mask, she was dressed in a short nightie, it definitely had to be Cynthia, Sharon's step mom

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. "Can't someone just have a good night rest?" She screamed and Mr. Savage closed his eyes as though he knew something bad will happen.
"Thelma please put some br*ast in your son's mouth so I can actually sleep" 
"Excuse you? should I remind you it's morning and most people are trying to work. Can't you join them?"
"Oh please! I'm not cut out for that. Why can't you join them?"
"Cause I have a baby and I didn't sleep the entire night"
"My point exactly! I couldn't sleep because of his stupid whinning" "Did you just call my baby stupid?" The woman charged towards Cynthia and Mr. Savage walked in between them.
"What are you going to do?" Cynthia sniggered, "You can't do nothing!" She added and Thelma tried to claw her ways to her. 
"I don't blame you! Jealousy go kill you. Born your own pikin you no fit born!" She retorted.
"How dare you?" Cynthia shouted, "Leave me let me put this tramp in her place!" She yelled and I shook my head at the drama unfolding before me. The baby was still crying in the room.
"Stop this!" Mr. Savage yelled. 
Suddenly he busted into language looking at me.
"See who they call person tramp? At least I have a child. " "You think we don't know you got pregnant before marriage?" 
"At least, it's productive, two years and nothing to show for it"
"With that your useless husband? Is that what you call marriage? I'd rather remain single!" Cynthia yelled.
 "Well my husband is useless but yours is so stupid, so stupid till the point that I don't understand what he's still doing with you" 
The baby was still crying. For a while, I wondered if the mother was deaf or if she actually did hear the baby crying. 
I entered into the room and I carried him. He instantly stopped crying, so I took him out so the mother could at least have some conscience and stop the argument but she didn't.
Mr. Savage pushed Cynthia into the room but she came out again. "You're so stupid Thelma, you're so stupid!"
Suddenly I heard rantings in another language of a woman, an old woman surfaced. I didn't understand what she was saying. She definitely had to be Dorcas grandmother.
She pointed at Mr. Savage then at me. I didn't understand what was going on. 
They all dispersed afterwards. Thelma walked into the room, her baby was already asleep in my arms so I had to follow her. "Urgh!" She grunted.
"What does that idiot see in her?" She asked and Dorcas walked in too. "It's okay Aunt Thelma"
"Don't even tell me it's okay, that woman is a fool and that idiot is yet to realize it" "Maybe he realizes it but he's choiceless" Dorcas answered.
"Your family drama is worst than mine" I said to Dorcas and she laughed. Thelma asked something in their language. "She's Erika my best friend in Lagos. She came to support me"
"Ehya" she covered her face in shame. "What tribe?" She asked, "Igbo" I answered and she immediately greeted me in Igbo.
"You speak?"
"Spent my NYSC in Imo state, that was where I met my husband, and we got married" she answered in igbo and Dorcas begged not to be left out.
"I'm sorry you had to see that, my cousin's wife is a b*tch" she added, this time in english.
"Your baby" I chipped in and she sighed.
"If I drop him now, he might wake again" she contemplated then got him from me, laying him on the bed. 
"I'm sorry about the coincedence" Dorcas apologized, "It's fine, maybe I over-reacted. It's just crazy, meeting your uncle everywhere I go" I sat on the bed then Thelma opened something in a nylon. 
I couldn't breathe, I found it rude to cover my nose. Then I felt nauseated, I wanted to vomit. I carefully examined the toilet then I ran in vomiting in it.
"Are you okay?" Dorcas walked in and I raised my thumb up signalling to her that I was alright.
"I'll go call Mom" she walked out before I could tell her not to bother. I flushed the toilet then I walked into the room, Thelma had already closed the nylon. "I'm sorry about that, it's my traditional agbo mixture" she answered.
"It's okay" I replied and she smiled.
"I had morning sickness too during my trimesters."
"It's not"
"Have you checked?" She asked and I shut my eyes. 
"Wait...." She paused, "You already know?" She added and I sat on the bed in thought. 
"Have you told the father?" She asked and I kept quiet. How was I supposed to explain this to her? 
"It complicated"
"I hope you're not planning to ab*rt" she asked and my silence gave it away. "Why?" She asked 
"Babies are God's own gift. Some people are even praying for it. People like that barren cow in that other room" she answered and I chuckled.
"Like I said, it's complicated" I answered and the old woman walked into the room. "Come out everyone, even if you're a guest Erika" she called out and I was shocked how she knew my name. 
"We need all hands on deck"
"I'm br*ast feeding" Thelma complained.
"So you didn't know you were br*ast feeding when you were about to plug Cynthia's eyes out. I need you all down stairs for morning prayers and then we'll start cooking. Sharon will take take care of Micheal"
"Yes Ma" Thelma answered and she walked out. 

 

David's POV
"Is this some sick joke?" She asked me just after seeing me.  Unknown to her I was just as shocked as she was to see me. Dorcas did say something about inviting her friend over but I never thought the friend would be Miss Erika. 
 "Are you following me? She added and I scoffed. 
Why would I follow her? "No offense, but it's my father's burial. I should be the one in the position to ask that"
"So he's your uncle?" She asked Dorcas, "Then Sharon is your cousin" she continued.
"Urgh!" She grunted.
Just when this drama was levelling, my cousin Thelma opened the door because we were apparently disturbing her peace. Immediately Cynthia came out, I knew there was going to war since they were sworn enemies.
They went ahead throwing abuses at themselves, including their husbands; I included. 
Even when I tried to push Cynthia in, she still came out to make trouble. I was embarrassed, not because of anything but Erika. 
I wished she hadn't seen that. 
I wondered why the two ladies were not embarrassed by what they just displayed. It took the intervention of Mom to calm the quarrel. 
"Have you guys no respect or shame? It's your father-in-law's burial" she asked in idoma language then she looked at Cynthia. "And you!" She pointed at Thelma. 
"I'm sure you started it"  
"Mama" Thelma argued.
"Shut up! Everyone shut up"
"No one is talking" I joked and she glared at me. "And you, aren't you old enough to stop the quarrel" "I tried my best" i cleared my throat, "Even having the guts to shamelessly argue in front of Dorcas' guest" she pointed at Erika.
"You all better disappear before I descend with my anger" she demanded and we all we all went our different ways. I entered into the room afterwards with Cynthia.
"What was that for?" She asked folding her hands.
"I think that should be my line" I answered.
"You didn't even take my side?" "Why would I? You clearly started this!" 
"I didn't! Thelma is insultive! Your whole family is!"
"I won't stand and watch you insult my family Cynthia. Your enemity with Thelma has gone on for too long. Don't you think it's time to grow up? You're both acting like kids"
Cynthia busted into tears.
"What's all this?"
"You're mean!" She mounted on the bed.
"Cynthia?"
"Leave me alone, you didn't even say a word when Thelma called me barren. You're a horrible husband" she laid on the pillow. "That reminds me, what's that teacher doing here?"
"Dorcas invited her"
"How is that possible? What business does Dorcas have with her?" She asked and Mom walked in.
"All hands are needed outside, after morning devotion" she announced then walked out of the room then she walked back in, "Get out of the bed Cynthia!" She shouted and Cynthia jerked up.

Morning devotion lasted fifteen minutes then everyone dispersed to one duty or the other. The church procession was to start by nine. 

"Are you serious?" Lawrence asked after I had explained the situation to him. "Small world huh?" He added and I nodded. 
"More like tiny world" 
"She's cool, I mean Erika. Now I see why Sharon likes her, I was this close to wooing her" Lawrence confessed with all manner of seriousness.
"Really?"
"Yes... She looks decent"
"Shea?" I asked with a wide smile on my face then I cleared my throat. "She has a boyfriend though"
"Lucky him"
"You have no idea" 

****
I watched Miss Erika slice onions, carrots, to be used for the jollof rice,  Cynthia on the hand was peeling off garlic skin. She was uncomfortable because of her newly polished acrylic nails.
"What should I help you ladies with?" I asked and Thelma laughed.
"You might wanna help your wife peel off that garlic that's she's carrying her hands like one Karashika (witch)" 
"Would you shut up?" Cynthia snapped and Thelma laughed. 
"Look at someone's daughter slicing with so much expertise" she turned towards Erika. "Don't compare me to anyone, much less a stupid teacher" 
"Okay stop it Cynthia" Dorcas interfered. "I'll take all but you insulting my friend" "Dorcas it's fine" Erika tried to be modest, "It's not!"
"Dorcas, it's me oh" Cynthia placed her hands on her chest.
"So what? Please don't even pick on my friend or you'll have me to deal with" she snapped and Cynthia opened her mouth in shock.
"You know what? I think I'll just go back to my room" she marched off. "Is she the only one?" Someone asked and Thelma hissed. 
"It's not as if she's doing anything oh, now she even had the guts to insult someone that's working." Thelma looked at Erika. 
"Weldone dear. As if I'm the one that sent her to fix nails" she hissed.
"Her husband is here" I announced.
"You no go find one way throway that woman"  Thelma snapped. 

Suddenly I saw my cousin Daniel walk towards me screaming "Pay up!", I expected it anyways. "I told you Pa Tom wasn't going to last hundred. You and Lawrence are paying me" he laughed.


***
The church procession began, we then proceeded to the family compound where Dad was to be buried. The reception ceremony started and there were  tears coming from different angle, I had to restrain myself from crying.
Judging from the fact that a lot were on my shoulder being the first son.
Then I sighted Erika standing close to a canopy mounted in the family compound watching the event, so I walked towards her. 
"Hey" I said to her and she gave me a half smile. "That's obviously fake" I chuckled and she raised her brow at me. 
"And how would you know that?" She asked and I chuckled. "I've seen your real smile and this is obviously fake" "This is my real smile" she smiled widely "And this is my fake smile" her face changed again and I had to pull up restraint from laughing.
"Well there's no difference between the fake and the one you gave when you saw me"
"There's a difference, that's a smile, only that it's not pronounced" she answered.
"Urgh! Forget it! You're a lost cause, I don't even know why I bothered myself to explain to you anyway" she answered and I finally laughed at loud. 
"You should have seen your face when you were giving your fake smile" I laughed dipping my hands in my pocket. 
"Priceless" I chipped in and she folded her hands. 
"You're using me as an amusement in your father's burial"
"No" I answered, "That'll be rude. I'm a gentleman, I don't dabble in making ladies life miserable" I confessed and she scoffed. 
"Sharon might disagree with that" she snapped and I paused clearly staring at her she was trying to deviate to an issue she knows I'll lose in. 
"I see what you're doing, you're turning tables, you know I'll definitely lose here"
"Like I said Mr. Savage," she smiled evily, "I don't remember playing games with you. You're a horrible father, maybe a horrible husband too, who knows?" She asked and I smiled. 
"You see that handsome man lying In that coffin?" I paused, "He was everything to me, my mentor" "You weren't even there for him during his last days"
"I was..."
"Busy?" She interrupted me, "I know what you're going to say" 
"You're a horrible son too" she snapped and I laughed heartily. I laughed so much it began to hurt too, I've also thought of it. I just had to admit to myself it was out of my control.


Erika's POV
He turned his back, I didn't know why. He seemed like he was cleaning his tears. "Are you crying?" I asked him and he turned to me.
"Does this look like a face if a crying man. Imagine a old man like me crying"
"That'll be funny" I answered, "And it will be logical too, it means you might not entirely be a clown. Maybe there's a not-so-horrible personality in there" I answered and he chuckled.
"I've seen horrible Dads, I'm not one. I love my daughter" "Maybe you're not the one taking the award home, but you're definitely on the nominee list" I answered and he laughed. 
"My father takes the award" I answered unconsciously and then I sighed. 
"Maybe he's just being misinterpreted like me"
"Misinterpreted my foot! Only wife number three was counted as important for having sons. You know how these polygamous things go" I analysed hoping he'd understand since I heard Dorcas' mom was a step daughter to the Mom.
"I don't. Dad only married mom through out his days on earth. Aunty Grace is a daughter dad had when he was very young" he explained and it all became clear. 
"Oh"
"Maybe you should talk to him, i mean your father. Have you done that?" He asked a I shook my head. I've never challenged dad out of respect i held for him.
I've never been the kind to disrespect my parents, I've been avoiding it all my life. 
"You should. Did you see how you almost took the anger out on me because of him" "I didn't"
"You have, on several occasions and it makes you look as though you have Daddy issues"
"I don't have Daddy issues"
"That's cause you're in denial. Give him a little Miss Erika experience, a little icing on the cake like you did to me, he'll realize his wrong and if he doesn't, he doesn't deserve your love and your hurt"
"David!" I heard Lawrence call out to him. He was needed urgently. 
"Duty call. See you around Miss Erika" he smiled at me then walked away. 

Suddenly I was left where I previously was, thinking about my pregnancy and what I wanted to do with it. I rolled my eyes, I wish Mr Savage hadn't left me alone.
Earlier on before the church procession, while we wore our clothes in the room, Dorcas inquired to know if I was pregnant. 
My silence betrayed me. 
"So it's true" she concluded and I rolled my eyes. 
"Did Thelma tell you?" She asked, "No! Thelma knows?" She added in surprise, "Mom told me you might be pregnant and I just confirmed it. When were you going to tell me?"
"I only told Kechi cause I needed a specialist to help me ab*rt it. I clearly wouldn't have said anything to the both of you"
"Jeez! Erika you can't possibly ab*rt it"
"I can't possibly have the child either, he has no father and I have my reputation to uphold"
"What reputation?"
"A good name is better than riches and wealth" 
"What's a good name if you'll only add murderer to to your reputation?" She snapped and I shut my eyes in tears. 
"Dorcas you don't understand"
"And I don't want to"
Thelma walked in already dressed in the family cloth they chose, "Dorcas can I borrow your powder?" She asked and Dorcas quietly stared at me.
"Is everything okay?" Thelma asked.
"Is everything okay?" I heard someone ask in reality then I yanked out of my thoughts. "Is everything okay?" I noticed it was one of the women that assisted in cooking.
"I hope you've eaten?" She asked and I smiled. "So that they will not say you came to Benue state to starve yourself. Please eat oh"
"I've heard Ma"


During the final stage of the burial while the coffin was being put in the six feet delved ground, families began sobbing, even Mr. Savage's mom. 
I've never seen people mourn that much over a man that was over eighty four years old. 
Sharon cried and I held her close to console her. "It's okay" I muttered to her. "I didn't want him to go yet" 
"He's probably in heaven dear, someday we're going to meet him" I took her away  to the backyard.
We talked for a while then I made her agree not to cry any longer. 
Afterwards I caught Mr. Savage crying in a corner. I picked up my phone taking a short video of him.
 "I thought you said old men don't cry" I laughed and he turned his back at me and I had a good look of his face.
"Are you kidding me?" He hid his face. 
"You're cruel" he commented and I laughed stopping the video.

Read " Hotel Palava " by the same author ( Essien Eno )

. "Can you please delete it?"
"It's in my phone, how is it your business?" I asked and he stretched his hands to collect my phone from me.
I suddenly hit his hands on the wall. "Ouch!" He swinged his hands and I walked close to him in sympathy. "Does it hurt?" I asked and he laughed.
"Why not try hitting your hand on the wall, let's judge if it hurts or not" he answered, "Nigerians and their questions sha" he answered then sniffed.
"I know which hurts more right now, dad In the grave or this?" He raised his hands and I chuckled. "Be a man" I commented and he laughed with a long sigh.
"My condolence once again" I said sat on the stool with him and he nodded. 
"Thanks."
"Your father must have been a very good man"
"He was, Pa Tom was a philanthropist." "Why do you call him Pa Tom" 
"That was the first word I uttered" he laughed. "I got used to it. He was loved, vibrant to the core, the villagers loved him. I didn't think he would go so soon" he cleaned his tears before they made way down his cheek.
"I'm sorry"
"It's not your fault, why are you sorry? How would I be remembered after I leave this Earth?" he asked, "As a horrible father" I answered and he laughed. 
"I want to be better than my father was, I want people to look at that grave and admire me, I won't want my children holding grudges against me"
"It's not too late" I answered and he smiled. 
"How do you see Benue?" He asked and I chuckled. "It's a nice place" "If you won't mind staying tomorrow, I have places I wanted to take Sharon to, you might wanna come along"
"I'll be leaving tomorrow, I'm sorry" I answered and he shrugged. "Safe journey then" he added rising up.

Before I retired for the night, I received calls from Mom requesting that I come over to the house immediately I get back from Benue. I went into the bathroom to take my bathe.
I realized  I didn't want to go just yet to entertain mom's nagging. I had to change my mind; staying a day more would not hurt, would it?
Besides, I could use the distraction.

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