Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The Christmas That Never Was - by Ebube Smart Monye
THE Okafors were the friendliest family in the neighbourhood. They were also the wealthiest family in the community. Their house was the last house on the street and the biggest in Greenish Estate. They had no tenants. All the rooms in their house were occupied by the cook, laundryman, gatekeeper and other domestic servants. They had lots of cars; and on Sundays they took no less than three jeeps for outing as they had many domestic servants to carry along with them.
The Okafors are a family of five consisting of the family head - Mr Justin Okafor, Mrs Hailey Michael Okafor, Jeffrey Michael Okafor – the first child, Ralph Michael Okafor – the second born, and the lastborn and only girl – Kay Okafor.
Mr Justin Okafor was a Nigerian and at the same time a citizen of Canada. This is because his father, Mr Joseph Chidi Okafor, was a Nigerian and he, Justin, was born in Canada. He was the only child of his mother, Mrs Erin Okafor. His father had two wives – Mary and Erin. Mary was the first wife of Joseph Chidi Okafor. She had three children, namely, Kelechi, Chinaza and Chidi.
Mrs Mary Okafor died when Chidi was only 5 years. After her death, Mr Joseph Okafor went to Canada for a business transaction. There he met Erin, Justin’s mother, and they got married. The new wife, Mrs Erin Okafor, took good care of Mary’s children and, of course, her only son Justin. Justin grew up to know he had two stepbrothers and a stepsister, all of whom never really liked him.
Mr Justin Okafor had two companies named Kelly International where he produced food stuff such as rice, beans, salt, palm oil and so on; and JM Limited where he produced accessories such as bags, shoes, clothes and so on.
Mrs Hailey Michael Okafor was a Canadian. She got married to Mr Justin Okafor, who was her high school mate. She had three children – Jeffrey, Ralph and Kay. Her kids were named by her mother, Mrs Silver Sebastian Michael. Mrs Hailey Okafor and her kids were naturalized Nigerians because her husband was a Nigerian, although genetically the whole family looked like the Whites because of their long curly hair, bright skin colour and pointed noses. It would be difficult be believe they were Nigerians.
Saturday, December 20 was a very busy day for the Okafors because it’s Kay’s 10th birthday. All the stewards were busy cooking, decorating or arranging gift items. Even the gatekeeper was busy as trucks were coming in and out of the compound bringing in chairs, tables, loudspeakers and other materials needed for the party. Mr and Mrs Okafor were also busy helping the stewards with the preparation. Jeffrey was pumping air into the balloons while Ralph was cleaning the carpet.
“Do you know that there would be Chinese rice in this party?” Jeffrey said as he tied the balloons to the metal stand that held up a canopy.
“That’s a lie,” replied Ralph.
“I saw it in the kitchen and I’m not lying,” Jeffery countered.
“Wow!” Ralph exclaimed. “I guess I’m gonna eat a lot of that today. The party will be athletic!” He demonstrated by raising his hand up.
“You can say that again, brother. Have you seen the slothful birthday girl this morning?” Jeffrey asked.
“Well, she is still asleep.” Ralph answered.
“What! I can’t believe I’m doing all this work for her and she’s still asleep at this time of the day!” Jeffrey lamented.
“Let her be, it’s her birthday,” replied Ralph.
They were not done with their conversation when the maid walked up to them and said, “Will you guys stop talking and continue working. Time is not on our side; the birthday will start by 12 noon.”
They both stared at her as she walked to the gate. She turned to them and said, “Stop looking at me and continue with the work at hand, please.”
Ralph sighed and then said, “This lady treats me harshly. She has always been like that ever since I knew her.”
“Let’s continue working. She must not get back here and see us talking,” said Jeffrey.
Meanwhile, Mrs Okafor wondered why Kay was not downstairs that morning. She went upstairs to Kay’s room and knocked at her door, but no one answered. She entered the room and saw that Kay was still sleeping. “Wake up, sleeping beauty!” She shouted.
Immediately Kay woke up and she said to her mom: “Today is my birthday!” She jumped off the bed and ran downstairs screaming and telling the maids, “It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday …. I am ten years old; I am ten years old ….” She ran round the compound with joyful shout.
“Dad, I don’t understand why Kay is jumping and running round the compound like a monkey. What is special about being ten years old?” Jeffrey enquired from Mr Okafor who stood, watching excited Kay.
“She’s just over excited,” answered Mr Okafor.
After all the arrangements, all the family members went upstairs to their various rooms to get dressed for the party. Later, Mr Justin Okafor gathered his family for a meeting at which he addressed them.
He began by saying, “Five minutes more and it will be twelve noon. Very soon we should be expecting troops of guests. He was about making the next statement when the door bell sounded.
“That’s the door,” said Ralph.
“Wow, it’s not yet 12 o’clock and people have started coming for my birthday!” Kay interrupted with her face wreathed in smile. “I should get dressed, my birthday has just begun,” she giggled and ran to her room to wear a gorgeous dress.
“I think someone should get the door; the maids can’t do that now as they are getting dressed for the party,” Jeffrey said. Ralph went downstairs to check the person at the door. He opened and saw strange faces. He knew they came for the party and so he allowed them in. When he went back upstairs, his father asked who was at the door.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “all I know is that they are part of the human specie invited to the party.”
“How could you allow strangers into the house, Ralph?” Mrs Okafor asked.
“I don’t think they are strangers, they seem to know dad. One of them asked of Justin and that is dad.”
Mr Justin Okafor, looking surprised, asked: “Where are they?”
“They are downstairs in the second sitting room,” Ralph answered.
“Let’s go see them!” Mr Okafor concluded.
The family went downstairs to see the strange guests, apart from Kay who was in her room selecting the best clothes to wear. To Mr and Mrs Okafor’s surprise, they were Mr Justin Okafor’s siblings with their households. They hugged one another and Justin introduced them to his family.
He said, “Jeffrey, Ralph, this is my brother Kelechi with his family; my sister Chinaza, her husband and children; and finally, Chidi and his family.” He went further: “Kelechi and Chidi are your uncles and Chinaza is your aunty.”
“Good to see you,” Ralph said.
“I am glad to know I have uncles, cousins and an aunty,” said Jeffrey, stretching his hand to shake them.
“So who among you is the celebrant?” asked Chinaza.
“Oh! She is upstairs; she will be here very soon,” said Mrs Hailey Okafor.
“Kay!” Mr Justin Okafor called.
“Yes! Daddy, I’m almost ready,” answered Kay. Few seconds later, she ran downstairs in a very beautiful dress. She was surprised to see strange faces in the sitting room. Her father introduced his brothers and sister to her and she introduced herself to them.
“Make yourself comfortable; the maid will get you something to eat,” said Mrs Hailey Okafor with utmost courtesy.
The family went back upstairs to continue their meeting. “You never told me you had siblings, daddy,” said Kay.
“I was about to say that. Did those cousins, uncles and aunty fall from heaven?” Jeffrey took over from Kay.
“I thought you informed us you were the only child,” Ralph added.
“Hold it! All your queries will be answered after the party.”
“Whaaat!” Kay, Ralph and Jeffrey chorused in unison. “Daddy, we were expecting you to answer the questions now,” Kay said, still surprised.
“You all heard your dad – ‘after the party!’” Mrs Hailey Okafor said in an angry tone.
“You are keeping us curious,” Jeffrey protested.
Mr Justin Okafor didn’t want his children to keep asking questions. He thought of what to do. He finally came to a conclusion that he had to give them something to do that would keep them on their toes – busy.
“Jeffrey,” he said, “I want you to be in charge of the sound system and the music. Ralph, be in charge of the swimming pool and make sure nobody enters the pool without your permission. You are there as a lifeguard.”
“But we already have a lifeguard,” Ralph interjected.
Mr Justin Okafor ignored him and said to Kay, “Kay, just go anywhere and have fun; it is your birthday.”
Mr Okafor ordered his three children to their various assignments. They all left his presence immediately. Mrs Okafor turned to her husband and said, “Your siblings never honoured any of our past invitations; they neither came for our wedding nor its anniversaries but now they are showing up on Kay’s birthday.”
“I know how confused you are. I am as confused as you are. Let’s just think of how to deal with this situation.”
“They can’t just come back to us like this; something is amiss,” Mrs Okafor replied, leaving the room.
The party began. Friends, neighbours, relatives, well-wishers – all came to celebrate with the Okafor family. All the domestic staff ate and drank to their satisfaction. They danced and had fun. The dogs kept wagging their tails, indicating how happy they too were because they had many leftover bones to crack. There were lots of activities, games, food and gifts for everyone. The party had a buffet setting and everyone had their choice food. The party bubbled with music and dance. Everything went well.
The only problem they had was Mr Justin Okafor’s siblings. All they did was gossip; their eyes were full of hatred and jealousy. Kay noticed them. Their movements made her uncomfortable. They moved around the house, looking at every corner as if they were trying to find out something. And her cousins kept fomenting troubles.
The maids began to clean up the house as soon as the party was over. The compound was filthy. The Okafors gathered for their family meeting again. At the meeting Ralph set the ball rolling by talking about how he ate Chinese rice. He was quick to report how a stubborn cousin almost drowned even after warning him several times not to go close to the pool. Mrs Hailey Okafor praised Jeffrey for a job well done. She narrated how the music enlivened the party. Jeffrey talked emotively about the dance session, most especially, how his parents danced to the admiration of many guests. Mr Justin Okafor talked about the nice time he had with his friends, including the neighbour who lived in the next compound.
Everyone noticed that Kay had not said a word all along. Her father asked her what was wrong. She replied, saying, “This is the most annoying birthday celebration in my life!” Everyone stared at Kay in discomfiture. They did not understand why or how the birthday was annoying. Her father asked her what the problem was.
She said in annoyance, “Your siblings are my problem. Do you want to sweep everything we said this morning under the carpet? You promised you would tell us about those siblings of yours after the party. Now you all are putting the cart before the horse; you are all talking about the party and not dad’s siblings. Dad, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. Telling us this morning that you have siblings was like squaring the circle. We all know you are the only child. Anyone can see with half an eye that your siblings don’t like us. I’m ….”
“Slow down with the idioms. I don’t even understand you,” Jeffrey interrupted.
“What did you not understand? Is it ‘squaring the circle,’ ‘letting the cat out of the bag,’ or ‘putting the cart before the horse’?”
Ralph joined the exchange: “You are a university student, Jeffrey, but you don’t know any idiomatic expression. Even Kay is smarter than you in this context!” Ralph said mockingly.
Jeffrey replied angrily, “Should you be making jest of me; I am older than you. Mind what you say.”
Mr Okafor knew that the meeting was going to end with quarrels. He decided to stop the argument. He asked everybody to calm down and listen carefully to him. He told them about his family history. He also explained to Kay that the siblings in question were his stepbrothers and stepsister. He went further to tell them about his past and how his siblings never talked to him. “They never liked me; they never really talked with me,” he informed his children.
After this, Kay felt better and Ralph apologized for using insulting words on his brother. Mr Justin Okafor began to talk about his Will.
“By Friday, I will meet my lawyer for the Will,” he let the family know.
“Dad, I don’t need your properties. I’m going to be richer and even greater than you,” Kay said audaciously.
“That is what we pray for!” Mrs Okafor intoned.
“I am going to be the best petro-chemical engineer in the world! I don’t really need your property before you die. I will make it big time!” Ralph boasted.
“If they don’t want your properties, give everything to me because I want your companies,” Jeffrey said.
“Jeffrey, you are lazy. Everybody is talking about making their own money, you are talking about taking your father’s properties,” Mrs Okafor said and everyone laughed.
“The other news is that we are not travelling out of the country for Christmas. We are staying her in Nigeria,” Mr Okafor alerted his family.
“Why? Why?” Ralph and Kay asked.
“Nobody should question me. I’ve taken that decision,” Mr Okafor emphasized.
“Just before we end the meeting, I really need to learn idioms,” said Jeffrey.
“I will help you. Follow me upstairs, I will give you a book on idioms,” Kay assured.
They both went upstairs to get the book. Meanwhile, Ralph and his parents were downstairs. His parents warned him about his naughty attitude. “Ralph, go to bed immediately and you must not play video games this night,” Mr Okafor instructed.
“Okay dad,” Ralph submitted.
“And make sure you brush your teeth and take your bath,” said Mrs Okafor.
“Okay mom, I have heard you,” Ralph replied.
“Goodnight,” Mr Justin Okafor said to Mrs Hailey Okafor with a kiss.
“Knock it off dad, you shouldn’t be kissing here. Do that in your room,” Ralph said as he went upstairs.
“Go away!” Mrs Okafor said, smiling.
“It’s 10 o’clock. It’s time to end the meeting and go to bed,” emphasized Mr Okafor.
THE next morning was a Sunday morning. Jeffrey woke up first, and was viewing a TV programme in the third sitting room very close to the library. Ralph was also doing same in his own room that morning. When their parents woke up, Ralph heard them talking; he turned off the TV immediately and pretended he was sleeping.
Mr and Mrs Okafor went to Ralph’s room which was the nearest to theirs, but they saw Ralph sleeping. They left and went to Kay’s room and she was also sleeping. They went to Jeffrey’s room but he was not there. As they walked down the stairway, Jeffrey heard their footsteps; he quickly put off the TV set and pretended he was reading the book Kay gave him.
“Mom, dad, good morning,” Jeffrey hurriedly greeted his parents as they got into the sitting room.
“Don’t deceive yourself; I heard the sound of the TV. Join us outside for sanitation,” Mrs Hailey Okafor said. And Mr Justin Okafor added, “The whole compound is in total mess. You must join us in cleaning the compound.”
Jeffrey went upstairs to call Ralph for the sanitation. Kay was asleep till they finished cleaning the compound. She woke up after everybody was done with the sanitation. She then went to join the others in the sitting room. “Good morning everybody,” she said. Her parents responded, “Good morning.”
“Dad, are we going out today?” she asked.
“No,” her father replied.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I am tired,” her father answered.
Ralph looked at his parents with his face wreathed in smile. “What is it? Did you see something?” Mrs Hailey asked.
“Today’s Sunday, which means I’m no more grounded. My punishment expired yesterday; therefore, I need my allowance for this week,” Ralph pointed out.
“Before the ban is lifted you must promise us that you will never buy porn magazines again!” Mr Justin Okafor retorted.
“Dad, I’m a big boy. I’m fifteen. For crying out loud, I’m done with secondary school. By January I will be in college. Every other boy of my age does the same. You shouldn’t ground or scold me,” Ralph protested.
“Ralph, every other stupid boy of your age does the same thing but the good ones don’t!” shouted Mrs Hailey Okafor, distending her face and making it look like hard stone. And then Mr Justin Okafor interrupted – saying, “Ralph, I am really scared of you. Now that you are going to college, I hope you won’t become a nuisance. Maybe you school in Nigeria instead of Canada so I can watch you.”
Ralph was shocked and he exclaimed, “No way!” He then pleaded, “Daddy, please don’t let me stay in Nigeria. Look at my skin colour, my hair; Canada is the perfect place for me, not Nigeria. Okay, I promise to be a good boy and not to read porn magazines again. Please let me go to Canada. I don’t even look like a Nigerian.” All this time, Ralph was on his knees pleading.
“You have five days to prove that you have been transformed. Therefore, on Friday, 26th of December, that is the Boxing Day, I will give you your allowance,” Mr Okafor said. “Okay,” Ralph replied in a sad tone.
Mrs Okafor was happy because she knew that Ralph would turn a new leaf.
The Okafor family was a family blessed with special and unique children. Jeffrey was like a disc jockey. He could work on sounds; he was also an expert at playing the guitar. He read a lot – newspapers, magazines and books written by great people. He was in his second year in college studying law at Nova Scotia College, a university, in Canada.
Ralph was very smart. He loved to play drum. He did not read much but he read manuals for the electrical appliances in the house. Whenever any home electrical appliance got spoilt he always repaired it. He was aspiring to become a petro-chemical engineer. He got admission to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Canada. His parents were surprised at this. Though they were always proud of him, they could not believe that Ralph would pass the matriculation examination because he was very playful. But to their surprise he was one of the best candidates who sat for the examination. Ralph used mnemonic devices to learn most often and he loved fun.
Kay was a very unique girl. Everybody in the house loved her, including the maids. They often called her “small but mighty.” She was an expert at playing piano. She loved gathering information. She read beyond her level. Most times she taught her brothers etiquette. She loved to teach and speak in the public. Still unsure of what she wanted to become, she was thinking of becoming a newscaster. She liked it whenever she saw people read news on the TV set.
However, Mr and Mrs Okafor had a discussion about their Will. Mr Okafor came to the conclusion that he would write his Will on Saturday the 27th of December. He called his lawyer to set an appointment for Saturday.
Wednesday, the 24th of December was a day to remember for the Okafors. That day, everyone was preparing for Christmas. Mrs Okafor went to the supermarket to get foodstuffs. The Okafors celebrate Christmas even though they were not Christians. They believed that may be God the Creator but they didn’t belong to any religion; they were free-thinkers. That day, Mr Justin Okafor brought a huge amount of money to the house. The money was in two briefcases.
“Why would you bring a hundred million naira into the house?” Mrs Okafor queried her husband.
“The bank has closed; I will take it to the bank tomorrow,” Mr Okafor answered.
Meanwhile their children were in the music studio. They had a very big studio in the house. Mr and Mrs Okafor went to join their children in the music studio. Ralph was playing the drum, Jeffrey playing the guitar and Kay was on the piano. They sang their family song together.
Chorus: We are family, we are family
We are family knitted together, we are one
Jeffrey: We live together in love
As gentle as dove
Kay: Like a bond of unity
In our house of purity
Ralph: Let us rejoice
Make a joyful noise
Mrs Okafor: In love we acquire
All that we desire
Mr Okafor: Earth is shaking
Heart is breaking
There’s no faking
I love you all
After the song, Ralph felt sober, saying, “I can’t believe that in six days’ time I will be travelling to Canada with Jeffrey.”
“Life in the university is fun,” Jeffrey said. “I will miss you all, especially Kay,” Ralph said, touching Kay’s hair.
At about fifteen minutes past eleven o’clock that night, everyone was asleep. The dogs were barking furiously. The loud barking woke Jeffrey up. Jeffrey went to Ralph’s room to rouse him from sleep but Ralph was awake and was playing video game.
“Why are the dogs barking like that?” asked Jeffrey. “This is unusual; they are barking in an unfriendly manner,” Ralph intoned.
“I am going to wake mom and dad,” Jeffrey said as he left Ralph’s room. Ralph followed him but on their way, they met their parents coming out of their room.
“We are just coming to your room,” Ralph quickly said, panting.
“The dogs’ barks woke us both up,” said Mrs Okafor.
“Boom! Boooom!” sounded the gunshots. “Did you hear that?” asked an alarmed Jeffrey. Almost crying, Mrs Okafor raised her voice, “Armed robbers! Oh! My God!”
“Now I want everybody to keep calm; let’s think of a plan,” Ralph said.
“Bringing up a plan now is like building a castle in the air; these guys are armed with guns!” Jeffrey said.
Looking so unusually worried, Mrs Okafor said in a hush, “I think they shot the dogs because they are not barking anymore.”
“I hope they did not shoot the puppies. Kay loves them. She would be sad if they did,” Jeffrey narrated.
“Where …,” Mrs Okafor said, about to ask a question, but was interrupted by Ralph who said, “I’ve got a plan. I need a couple of wires which I will connect to an electric socket. I will remove the insulation on the cables to make them naked wires. I will then connect them to the metal door and pour water on the door; so when the robbers try to open the door, they will all get electrocuted. And finally we will call the Police. It’s a perfect plan – just like in ‘Home Alone’ movie.”
Mrs Okafor surveyed Ralph who just ended his ingenious plan with a wink as well as a smile, and she said, “I was about to ask where Kay was before you interrupted me.” Jeffrey went to Kay’s room to wake her up.
“We are not executing your plan, Ralph,” Mr Okafor said calmly.
“Why?” Ralph asked.
“Let’s just surrender to the robbers; let them steal anything they want.”
Jeffrey and Kay went to join the others in the corridor.
“Justin, you caused this. You shouldn’t have brought that hug amount of money into this house,” Mrs Okafor blamed her husband.
“The money is in my closet; they could take it if that’s what they want.”
“Boom!” A gunshot again. The armed robbers entered the house and the family came downstairs. The armed robbers ordered them to lie face-down. “Bring out all the money you have in the house!” The gang leader bellowed at Mr Okafor.
Ralph stood up and said, “I will show you where the money is.”
The leader of the robbers told one of his men to follow Ralph and fetch the money. Ralph saw that there were only three robbers and they were wearing black masks. He thought to himself, “There are only three and we are five in number. I could collaborate with the maid, get sharp objects and we could fight these robbers just as in the action movie I watched lately.”
The armed robber hit Ralph’s head, saying, “Move faster! I don’t know what you are thinking!”
On the other hand, the two robbers in the sitting room were interrogating the remaining family members. “So you have three sitting rooms in this house. I can’t wait to see the happiness in this family die!” The gang leader yelled.
“Hello, birthday girl,” he said, touching Kay. “You are not going to enjoy this year’s Christmas because it will be full of unhappiness.”
Unknown to the Okafors, the leader of the armed robbers was Mr Justin Okafor’s stepbrother – Kelechi. Kelechi kept on touching Kay. He told her to pull off her pyjamas, a request that provoked Jeffrey who stood up and said angrily, “You are not ashamed of yourself; a man like you, who is old enough to father this girl, wants to rape her.”
“Shut up!” Kelechi shouted angrily.
Mr Justin Okafor told Jeffrey to lie down.
“Look, if you say a word again I will blast you!” Kelechi fumed at Jeffrey.
“And if you touch my sister again I will attack you.”
The gang leader Kelechi looked straight into Jeffrey’s eyes. By this time, Jeffrey was filled with indignation and uncommon courage. He communicated to Kay with a sign no one in the sitting room understood except Kay who is smart enough to decode such signs.
Immediately Jeffrey winked, Kay ran toward the kitchen while Jeffrey himself ran toward the door. Kelechi and the other robber with him pursued Jeffrey, whilst Kay hid inside the kitchen cupboard.
“Idiot! Pursue the girl before she gets away while I get this bastard,” said Kelechi to his gang mate, as he himself pursued Jeffrey toward the gate. Kelechi knew that he would not catch up with Jeffrey, so he pulled the trigger and let off a shot. Jeffrey fell down flat as he was about to open the gate. But Ralph had handed over the two briefcases filled with money to the armed robber before they heard the gunshot.
The armed robber was about to run downstairs to check what was going on. “Not so fast,” Ralph said. He dragged the robber back from behind, gave him a hard punch and kicked the gun off his hand. He turned and pushed the robber down. He picked up the gun, took the briefcases and ran as fast as he could. As he ran down the passage he threw the briefcases into the storeroom.
The robber pursued him. When the robber caught up with him, Ralph pointed the gun at the robber, but he was afraid to shoot because he didn’t want to kill anybody. The robber saw fear in Ralph, he drag the gun from his hand and shot Ralph’s arm. At that instant, the robber heard the Police siren. He ran downstairs to meet Kelechi and the third armed robber.
Kelechi said, “My plan was to steal your belongings and kill all the males in this family. But I will not go without executing my plan. Goodbye, Mr Justin Okafor.” He released some shots.
The three robbers ran out of the compound. Kay was still in the kitchen cupboard but she heard the gunshots. She wondered who was shot. She was very scared. When she heard the Police siren, she was happy that the Police would save her. Before the Police got there, the armed robbers had escaped. The Police called the ambulance to take Ralph, Jeffrey and Mr Justin Okafor to the hospital.
Poor Mrs Hailey Okafor! She cried throughout that night. Kay comforted her. Mrs Hailey Okafor gave the Police all the information they needed. She told the Police that the leader of the robbers knew her husband by name because he said, “Goodbye, Mr Justin Okafor” before he pulled the trigger.
Ralph had a bullet in his arm, Jeffrey also had one lodged in his hand; but Mr Justin Okafor had a bullet in his stomach. The doctors performed surgery on the three of them to remove the bullets in their bodies. Ralph was half-conscious before the surgery, Jeffrey was half-dead and Mr Justin Okafor was unconscious before the surgery.
While the surgery was on Mrs Hailey Okafor kept on crying and wishing the surgery would be successful. But Kay kept wondering why only the men in her family were killed. She wondered why neither she nor her mom was killed. “How did he know about my birthday party?” she thought to herself. “Maybe he was at the party; he must be someone we know. But who could he be?” These thoughts kept ringing in Kay’s mind. She was scared because her mother kept crying. She knew something bad was in the offing.
After the surgery and everything, Mr Okafor’s brothers came to the hospital. The doctors announced to the family that Mr Justin Okafor lost a lot of blood and had died! Mrs Okafor threw herself on the floor and wailed, refusing to be consoled. She was beside herself with grief, almost going mad! Kay noticed that after the doctors informed that her father was dead, her uncles smiled.
“What about the other boys?” One of her uncles enquired.
“They survived the surgery,” a doctor answered. Kay noticed that her uncles were surprised and angry that her brothers were alive. Now she knew how much her uncles hated her family. She went to Ralph’s ward. Ralph was awake but looking very tired.
“What’s up? Why the long face?” Ralph wanted to know from Kay.
“Daddy is dead,” Kay said as teardrops fell from her eyes.
“I know he spoke to me in the ambulance before he gave up the ghost,” said Ralph.
“What did he say?” Kay asked with eagerness.
“He told me not to trust his brothers. He said that he had no Will and that we must be very smart. He told me his account number and he asked me to learn his signature. He told me some other things. But he said that he suspected that his brothers sent the armed robbers and they were going to take his property because he had no Will and it is a tradition. Dad further asked me to withdraw all the money in one of his accounts at Zenith Bank. He said the money would be enough to pay our school fees till we would be out of university. Dad also said he expected great achievement from us. Then he died.”
“I knew his brothers were part of the armed robbery gang. The one who touched me had the same body odour as his eldest stepbrother Kelechi, or whatever he is called,” Kay said with a very angry reaction.
“Don’t jump into conclusions. Let’s watch them; when we find out, we can then take action,” Ralph retorted.
Within few seconds, their uncles came into Ralph’s ward. Kay left immediately they came in because she was very angry. Ralph stared at them.
“How are you?” Uncle Chidi asked
“It is obvious that I am not fine. I’m on a sick bed,” Ralph answered.
They went outside the ward to talk. Ralph tried his best to get up from the bed; he removed his drip. He went to the door and eavesdropped on their conversation.
“We have to eliminate these boys or else we won’t achieve our aim,” Uncle Kelechi was heard saying. “We have to work very fast,” he continued. “We must eliminate them any moment from now, even right here in this hospital. We have to come up with a plan,” he said and spoke some Igbo language which Ralph didn’t understand. Ralph was very weak and down; he was not prepared for this battle.
“Why did father give me all the information? I was never a responsible boy. How could he trust me? Now I can’t disappoint him,” Ralph thought to himself. “Maybe Jeffrey is alive because they talked about killing two boys,” he soliloquized as he went out of his ward to Jeffrey’s.
He stood by Jeffrey. Kay was also there sitting down. A nurse came in. “Don’t worry; within two hours he would be awake,” the nurse assured.
She was surprised at how strong Ralph was. “You should be in your ward, don’t put me in trouble! Now go to your ward and fix the drip into your hand.”
“Ralph,” Kay called as he was about to go, “it is 15 minutes to midnight – exactly 24 hours in this hospital. We spent our unhappy Christmas Day in a hospital. By 12 midnight, it will be Boxing Day. We have no gifts to open, no good news; the bad news is that our father is dead!” Kay wept and tears rolled down Ralph’s eyes as he went out of Jeffrey’s ward.
“When Jeffrey wakes up I will tell him everything daddy said. I can take all the responsibility.” Then Ralph thought, “What if he doesn’t wake up?” “No! No! He will wake up; he can’t leave me alone now that my uncles are after my life. He will wake up and we will surely come up with a plan of action,” Ralph assured himself though he was still scared.
By 7:00 a.m. on Boxing Day Mrs Hailey Okafor woke up. She was surprised to see Kay awake, the Kay she knew loved to sleep. She didn’t say a word. There was an unusual movement in the hospital, the doctors went up and down as if they were looking for something, and the nurses looked at them in an unusual way.
“Mom, I can sense that something is wrong, let’s go and check Jeffrey and Ralph.” Her mother got up immediately. Her uncles had come in as early as 7:00 a.m. Kay was surprised. She and her mother went to the third floor where Ralph’s ward was. The uncles followed them. When they got to the ward, Ralph was not there! They went to Jeffrey’s and he too was not in.
“Where are they – Ralph and Jeffrey?” Mrs Okafor asked alarmingly, breaking down in tears. She was very confused. The doctors told her to calm down. “They could be somewhere around playing,” a doctor interjected.
Now, Kay stared at her uncles who were surprised and fidgety because of her seemingly fiery gaze. She suspected them. Kay went straight into Jeffrey’s ward. She scattered everything there but could not find any trace, not even a note. She held her mom’s hand and both went to Ralph’s ward. Kay searched. There was nothing there as useful information on her brother’s whereabouts. The only thing found was a picture of an airport which Ralph drew. When Kay looked at the picture she smiled, saying, “I know where they are.” The doctors were relieved when they heard this.
IN a split moment, Mrs Hailey Okafor’s mind reeled out a trajectory of the past two eventful days. She was very happy at the nerve-calming confidence expressed in Kay’s “I know where they are” statement.
“So where are they?” Uncle Kelechi asked.
“Mr Man, I wasn’t talking to you!” Kay shouted. She went downstairs with her mom.
“That girl is weird. How does she know where they are?” Uncle Chidi, standing with arms akimbo, queried. “She doesn’t like you at all. I guess she saw your face when you robbed the house. I told you not to go.”
“Chiimo! Why am I scared of her – that little brat? I will make sure I break her wings. Those horrible eyes of hers are scary,” Kelechi said.
“Guilty conscience,” Chidi said as they both went downstairs.
Meanwhile, when Kay got to the car, her mother asked her again, “Where are they?”
She answered, “You know Ralph loves drawing and the only picture there was the picture of the airport which he drew. Therefore, it means they are going to the airport.”
“What!” Mrs Okafor exclaimed. “Let’s go to the airport now!” She started the car. “No, we can’t go to the airport, we have to go home first; if they are travelling, they will take their belongings and international passport at home first before going to the airport.” Mrs Okafor drove as fast as she could.
“Mom, slow down,” Kay advised. “I’m sure you watch movies on ‘African Magic’. You notice that in those movies, when someone is curious, worried or angry and the person drives fast, the person ends up having a terrible accident. So please reduce your speed.”
Mrs Okafor applied the brakes and the car screeched to a halt. She jumped down from the car and ran into the house. “Jeffrey! Ralph!” She screamed. One of the maids told her they had gone with some luggage not quite long. The maid gave her the letter they dropped before leaving. The letter reads:
49 Falomo Street,
27 Dec. 2013
Ralph eavesdropped and heard Uncle Kelechi’s and Uncle Chidi’s discussion here in the hospital. They have planned to eliminate us in order to take father’s properties. That’s why we are going back to Canada. By January, Ralph will start as a 100-level student and I will resume as a 300-level student. We promise to be very hardworking.
Don’t worry about our school fees and allowances. Before Dad died, Ralph spoke to him in the ambulance. Dad asked us to take the money, but we took only 50 million naira. The other briefcase is in your room; you could use it for his burial. He also asked us to take all the money in one of his accounts which I already did. I transferred all the money into my account. He also told Ralph that he registered the shopping plaza in your name and that it belongs to you. They may want to take the plaza from you; but if my uncles try it, you can sue them. I’m very sure you will win the case.
Dad also talked about Kay’s birthday gift. It is behind her pillow. Dad warned us not to fight his brothers; he said that we should leave the properties for them. He also said that if we fight them they can use charms to kill us.
We love you. Thanks.
Ralph & Jeff
After Mrs Hailey Okafor read the letter, she became frustrated and she fainted. Kay ran back to the car, took her mother’s phone and called the hospital. Kay was very scared. She called the maids to help. They carried her outside so that she could receive fresh air. The ambulance came to carry her. Kay ran upstairs to her room to take the gift her late father left for her under the pillow. Before she got back downstairs, the ambulance had left.
She was very unhappy. She sat down to open the gift package. She saw in it a new telephone set, a new SIM card and 5,000 naira worth of airtime. She was beside herself with joy. One of the maids prepared food for her. After she had eaten her fill, she went back to the room, opened her wardrobe and brought out all the presents given to her on her birthday.
She started with the one her mother gave her and, on opening the packet, she found a big pink teddy. She had always wanted a pink teddy bear and not a brown one. Now she got what she wanted. She unfurled wrapper of the gift from Jeffrey and found a toy Barbie house. Barbie was her best cartoon, so Jeffrey gave her a Barbie house. Next, the gift from Ralph. A lovely diary it was! She opened other gifts given to her by the maids, neighbours and friends and found lovely items in them all.
The last gift item looked very flat; she wondered who gave it. She looked round the wrapper and found her father’s name. She new it was another gift from her father. She tore off the wrapper and behold, it was a laptop with a car key taped on top! She was very surprised. She went to the garage, opened it and found a new car at the end of the garage! She was so overwhelmed with joy that she broke down in tears. Oh, why? The giver – her father – was not alive to hear her say, “Thank you ….”
When Mrs Okafor woke up in the hospital, she asked about Kay and the doctor told her that Kay was at home with the maids. The doctor told Mrs Okafor that she had high blood pressure. Her doctor advised her not to think too much. He also told her not to get worried and shocked, but to try as much as possible to be in happy frame of mind.
Meanwhile, Ralph and Jeffrey had arrived in Canada. They went for several medical checks and treatment for wholesome healing. They made sure they spent their money wisely and on very important things. Ralph went to Northern Alberta Institute of Technology; Jeffrey paid his accommodation fees at the institute and for other things he needed for the semester. Jeffrey also resumed at his own college – Nova Scotia College. He did not tell his friends anything about his father’s death; he kept it a secret.
After Mrs Hailey Okafor was discharged, her brothers-in-law began accusing her of killing her husband. She was very nonplussed. It was hard for her to see any reason for the charge against her. She denied the charge, stressing that she could never allow her integrity as well as her respect for the sanctity of human life to diminish to the level of being complicit in any murder.
The in-laws requested her to go to the village and swear before the god of the land that she never killed her husband. She complied. The chief priest asked her to drink the water used to bath the body of her late husband. In addition, he requested her to shave her head. Mrs Okafor, thinking of the unhygienic condition of the water, refused to drink. But her friend, called Adamma whom she met in the village, told her to drink it or else the villagers would think she killed her husband. Mrs Okafor succumbed. Kay watched the scenario but there was nothing she could do to help. She only wept. All these made her hate the uncles the more.
During the burial of Mr Justin Okafor, nobody from Canada came. Mrs Hailey Okafor’s parents were long dead and she was their only child. She had no brother or sister. Her late husband’s parents were also dead. She had no close relatives to lean on at this uneasy time. She alone faced her evil brothers-in-law. All other people who came to the funeral were unknown to her. She refused to eat or drink and she wept all through. Only Kay and the new-found friend, Adamma, were nearby to console her.
After the burial, Mrs Hailey Okafor returned to Lagos. She called out all the household servants. She told them that she would not be able to pay all of them because her husband had died and she could not afford to continue to pay and also feed them. She also said that she knew her husband’s family would come and take over the house because he died without a Will. In other words, Mr Okafor died intestate. Mrs Okafor asked the cook, the gatekeeper, the driver and one of the maids to stand aside. She then told the other maids to get their baggages, gave them some money and bade them farewell.
While the other maids had gone to pack their bags, Mrs Okafor turned to the domestic staff she asked to stand aside and said, “I told you to stand apart because I’ve decided to retain the four of you. Therefore, Ifeoma, you remain our cook. Ali, you remain the gatekeeper although you weren’t able to save us during the robbery attack. Wale, my husband said that you drove better than Ochuko, so I have decided to retain you instead of Ochuko; you remain the driver. And finally, Yewande, you know that Kay loves you so much, you gonna be in charge of cleaning. Thank you. You can all go back to your duty posts. But before you go, Yewande and Ifeoma – you can both stay in Jeffrey’s room. Wale, Ralph’s room is all yours. Nobody should stay in the boys’ quarters anymore.” The four of them left the sitting room happily.
In Canada, Jeffrey and Ralph decided to get jobs and study at the same time. It was easy for Jeffrey to find one; he was 17 years old. But for Ralph it was the other way round; most employers did not want to offer him employment because he was too young – 15 years old. Jeffrey got a job as a DJ in a club house down town. Jeffrey discussed with the owner of the club house to allow Ralph work there as a waiter. They worked only on Friday and Saturday nights when there were a lot of clubbers. Jeffrey rocked the club with good music and Ralph served drinks to people.
The little money they earned was what they used to buy new clothes and feed themselves. Even at that, they studied very hard. They never forgot their late father’s admonition. They were after greatness as they never spared themselves at well-focused hard work. While in school, they studied like there would be no tomorrow; and they ensured that no one distracted them.
Back in the house there was great trouble. Mr Justin Okafor’s relatives tormented Mrs Hailey Okafor. Kay had resumed school as a JSS 1 student. The family members of Mr Okafor came into the house one day. They scattered everything in search of what they never kept.
Ali the gatekeeper heard the shuffling and screeching sounds at the gatehouse. He ran into the house with his dagger flashed and told the intruders to leave the compound.
“Look at this thing,” Kelechi muttered.
“Step aside, Ali!” Mrs Okafor ordered. She moved closer to Kelechi. “What is it you want? You have taken the companies, my husband’s life and my joy! What else do you want?”
“Look at this woman. Are you not an oyibo woman? Go back to your country! Thief! Leave my brother’s properties alone!” Aunty Chinaza shouted arrogantly.
“You called me a thief? You came into this family and took the companies that my husband and I built over the years! Are you not the thief?” Mrs Okafor retorted, pointing to Chinaza.
“Look! The reason I came here is because I need the documents about the companies. I have not come here to fight!” Kelechi said, a bit scared. Mrs Hailey Okafor went upstairs to get all the documents relating to the companies. She handed them over to the inquisitive Okafor siblings and told them to leave the house.
They left but Mrs Okafor broke down in tears. “Why didn’t you tell me that Nigerians are like this?” She queried as if talking to her late husband. “Why have you left me to suffer? I’m scared, I need help!” She cried.
Unknown to her, the Okafor siblings were scared of her. “I’m scared of this woman,” Chinaza said in muffled tone.
“You are not the only one,” Chidi added. Kelechi looked at both of them and said, “This woman is going to stop us from getting all of Justin’s properties. We have to kill her too!”
“Don’t try that. Remember she has two sons that are away plus the fact that her daughter knows that you killed her father. They will suspect you,” Chidi warned.
“Why do you talk like a child, Chidi? It is not compulsory we kill her with a gun or a knife. We could kill her with charms,” Kelechi confidently said.
“Yes! We will inflict her with a sickness to make her calm down and stop being strict. Then we will take all the properties right before her eyes; and finally, we will kill her with charm,” Chinaza added some pep in corroborating Kelechi’s statement.
Kelechi grinned and said with glee, “Nobody will suspect us!”
The house had become very boring to Kay since her two brothers were no longer around to play with her. All that had happened in the past few months made her think deeply. She had always wanted to be greater than her father. She came to a conclusion that she was going to become a doctor in order to save lives. She saw the doctor that wasn’t able to save her father’s life as a failure. She determined to become a successful medical doctor who would save lives. She now had no friends or siblings around; her friends were now the domestic staff left, all the four of whom related very cordially with her.
Uncle Wale, the driver, drove to her to school and back home everyday in the new car her father gave her. While in school as a JSS 1 student she studied hard even beyond her level. She studied JSS 2 and JSS 3 books too. Whenever she got back home she did all her school assignments. Kay was very diligent.
Yewande, the maid, taught her how to wash clothes and dishes. She also taught her how to sweep clean and do some other home chores. Aunty Ifeoma, the cook, taught Kay fine culinary and proper laying of the dining table for serving the cuisine.
Ali, the gatekeeper, taught Kay the Hausa language. And she reciprocated by teaching Ali the English language. Uncle Wale showed Kay how to wash a car without scratching off the paint, and also the basics of safe driving. Kay also benefited by the recreational activities that Wale taught her, which included table tennis and basketball. All these home activities, in addition to how she worked hard in school, kept Kay very busy and helped her forget her sorrows.
The only source of income for Mrs Hailey Okafor was the rent she collected from the tenant in the other two houses her husband built. She also collected rent from the ten shops in her plaza. She had no office in the two companies again, so she was always home and this was boring. It made her think of everything that had happened. She decided to go to the art and craft school for adults to learn decoration.
After six months of training she began to decorate events like weddings, birthday celebrations and anniversaries. She got more income from this work and was able to pay Kay’s school fees and other expenses. The decorating work helped her think less of her misfortune, thus normalizing her rising blood pressure. She had many clients because most people loved her decorations.
The household workers were now part of the family. They ate on the same dining table with Kay. On Sundays, Kay taught them how to swim. She also bought gifts for them from time to time. Everything was going smoothly in the house.
Kay represented her school in external debates, quiz competitions, sports and music competitions. She came always tops in these competitions. In fact she made her school the best musical school in town. Through Kay’s excellence in these competitions, her school came to be among the best schools in Nigeria.
All other sports she learned from Uncle Wale’s coaching, but swimming was learned from Ralph. Jeffrey taught her piano-playing, whilst morals were received from the instructions of the maids and parents. All these enhanced her intelligence – so much that it baffled her teachers. Her achievements for the school brought her into renown. All the students, teachers, non-teaching staff and even the proprietor of the school knew her.
Ali, Wale, Yewande, Ifeoma and Mrs Okafor kept encouraging Kay to study harder. At the end of JSS 1 Kay was given double promotion to JSS 3. In JSS 3 Kay had a seat peer named Dwane Arthur – an American. He was the best student in JSS 3.
“You look like an American, you have our hair and skin colour. Why then do you bear Okafor as surname?” Dwane asked one day.
“Mind you business, I don’t talk to you and I’m not going to tell you anything. My family is a mystery you can never understand. Okay?” Kay replied.
“Why are you harsh? Why? Do you hate me? I was only asking a question,” Dwane said.
“I don’t hate you,” Kay said and went away. As she left, her heart sank as she realized that she never liked to be an insolent girl. She would like to be the good and friendly girl. But after her father’s death she never liked to talk about her family to anyone.
Kay was worried that she yelled at Dwane. When she got to school the next day, she walked up to him and told him how sorry she was. She told him everything that had happened in her family the year before. She also made him understand that that was the reason she didn’t like talking about her family. She hadn’t told anybody the story. Dwane was the first person to hear it from her.
Dwane talked to Kay about the love that Jesus Christ had for every human, and how Jesus saved the world. He told Kay that Jesus could put an end to all the problems in her family. The sound of the school bell which indicated that it was time for assembly made them stop their conversation. By then Kay had learned a lot from what Dwane said. Although she had no religion, she decided to become a Christian like Dwane.
Kay had heard about Jesus Christ but she never knew who he was. Now that Dwane told her, she was anxious to go home and Google-search “Who is Jesus” on the internet. She read a lot about Him – his miracles and how he continues to save mankind. She accepted Jesus Christ as her saviour that afternoon and she became a Christian.
When her mother came back that evening, Kay told her and all the domestic staff about Jesus Christ. She told them about the wonderful things Jesus could do and many things he had done. She told them how Jesus raised the dead. She explained that if she had known Jesus when her father died, Jesus would have raised him back to life. Kay wished she knew Jesus earlier. Nonetheless, she was happy to have come to know him.
Kay was no longer afraid of her uncles. She had a very strong faith that Jesus Christ was on her side and her uncles would not be able to kill her or her mother. Her mother and all the domestic servants accepted Jesus on account of Kay’s narrative. Even Ali the Muslim was convinced by what Kay said. They all became Christians.
Dwane told his parents about his new friend Kay. And the parents liked Kay right from their first meeting. Kay also told her mother as well as the domestic servants about Dwane and his parents. At a PTA meeting, Mrs Hailey Okafor met Dwane’s parents who informed her about their church. Mrs Okafor and her household began to attend the same church with the Arthur family.
Dwane became the only friend that Kay had. Mrs Okafor was happy because she had new friends in the Arthurs. Kay became a bona fide Christian. She read the Bible regularly and was very prayerful. She prayed for her brothers and everyone she knew. Her prayers opened doors of blessings for her brothers in Canada.
Three years later, Kay was 13 years; Dwane was 14 years, Ralph 18, and Jeffrey 20. Kay and Dwane were in SS2. Jeffrey was now a lawyer. He worked in a law firm that had chambers in Canada. Jeffrey was making money as much as fame in law practice. Ralph was the best engineering student in Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. He was in his third year. It was obvious that Kay’s prayers were answered.
One fateful day Mrs Okafor fell sick and she went to the hospital with Kay. The doctor told them that she had breast cancer and that she was going to die soon. Kay was alarmed. She would not like to lose her mom so soon after losing her dad. She cried to Jesus Christ for help. She returned home and called the Arthur family to inform them of the unfortunate development. Immediately, the Arthurs arrived – to see how Mrs Okafor was faring. Kay was still explaining everything the doctor said to the Arthurs when her uncles and aunty came into the house.
“I will destroy you this woman! I asked you to hand over the plaza to me but you refused. You are telling me that is the only source of your income. Who cares? It is my brother’s property and I will have it!” Kelechi bellowed.
Dwane and his parents finally saw the people who had been tormenting Kay and her mother. “Hold it right there, Mr Man!” Kay exploded, pointing to Kelechi and looking straight into his eyes. “Look me in the eyes! I am not afraid of you anymore! My mother may be afraid, but I am not!” Kay went on, beating her chest to demonstrate her audacity. “The house was quiet before you entered; so if you want to talk, talk quietly. Because if you raise your voice at my mother again, I will personally walk you out of this house.”
“Look at the small thing. You dare talk to my elder brother like that when I can’t talk to him like that? I know your mother is sick; that is just a tip of the iceberg of what we can do. I will deal with you. You have no respect,” Chinaza boasted.
“People like you don’t deserve respect. You are predators, I thought as much! I know you are behind my mother’s sickness. But if that is what you want to use to terrorize me, I’m very sorry, it is not working. I’m not even scared because I have Jehovah, the mighty man in battle, on my side. You have overstayed your welcome. You may now leave!” Kay said pointing toward the door.
“I counted the cars outside; they are ten. What are you using ten cars for? We are going to take nine of them and leave only one for your use,” Chinaza said, hoping to see Kay’s reaction.
“No problem, you can take everything but don’t take that black sports car because it belongs to me. And the black jeep, because it is my mom’s. Neither the blue jeep – which is owned by our visitors here. You may take the remaining seven – they were your late brother’s,” Kay suggested nonchalantly. She continued, “Uncle Wale, please drive my car, mom’s car and Mr Arthur’s into the garage; and drive the rest outside the compound as they now belong to my father’s siblings.”
Kay turned to her father’s siblings and said, “Use the door now. The plaza belongs to my mother. I’m sure you are satisfied now that you’ve taken all of your brother’s properties. I don’t want to see you again in this house. Goodbye!”
Mr Justin Okafor’s siblings left the house in shame. Everyone in the sitting room was marveled by Kay’s courage. Ever since then, Mr Justin Okafor’s siblings never tormented Mrs Hailey Okafor.
Kay persisted in prayers for God to heal her mother of cancer. One day, when Kay was in SS3, her mother was healed miraculously. Kay was so happy. That very day her mother had gone for chemotherapy but she came back to break the news that she no longer had cancer! Every member of the household was happy. And the Arthurs too.
They were still jubilating when the door bell rang. Aunty Yewande went to check and to everyone’s surprise it was lawyer Jeffrey Okafor and final year engineering student Ralph. The house was over-buoyed with joy – yes, joy like the sea!
Kay told her brothers about her achievements and all that the household went through in their absence. Her brothers also told her what they passed through.
“Let’s all take photograph together,” Kay suggested. “Ali, please call the photographer opposite the house.”
Life is full of ups and downs. There are tribulations everywhere. No wonder, Job in the Bible lamented that the person born of woman is glutted with troubles all life! But with honesty, discipline, diligence and patience, we can overcome all our troubles and temptations. It may take time but we will surely get to our destinations.
Mr Justin Okafor’s siblings lost all they had collected from the Okafor family. Kay and Dwane got admission into the same university to study medicine. Ralph became a petro-chemical engineer. But the wicked and covetous Okafor siblings were afflicted with diseases.