ONE WEEK EARLIER
“Anire, take this fifty naira and go and get us matches and two bulbs of onions at Iyawo’s place. She’s the only shopkeeper in this neighbourhood who sells things at the right price,” Wasn’t it only a few minutes ago Mola had said these words to her?
Smiling sardonically, Anire reached out to collect the money. “She’s not a businesswoman, Daddy.”
“She’s a honest person,” Mola half-countered, half-reproached. “The rest of them are not. If we didn’t have good people like her on this street, you and I would have to pay through our noses to get the commonest of items from these extortionists masquerading as salespeople.”
Anire laughed and was already heading to the door when Mola spoke again,
“Anire, where is your crucifix?”
The girl froze; she hadn’t expected him to notice.
“Anire,” Mola called gently, “you are aware that it is an auspicious week and every member of the church is to wear their crucifix during this period. Where is your crucifix?”
“Daddy, I’ve been wearing my crucifix in school since Monday, I swear,” she replied evasively, her back still turned to him.
“You left your crucifix in school? Do you mean to say you travelled back here without it?”
Anire grumbled something. “Daddy I will get my crucifix when I get back to school. Let me quickly go and get what you sent me to,” and with that, she dashed out of the house. Anire knew in her heart that her father wouldn’t be pleased if he found out where she’d really left the crucifix. She didn’t know how he would react neither was she prepared to find out.
Back inside the house, Mola reclined in his chair and heaved a frustrated sigh.
Anire, his niece was many things. Having lost her parents to a bus accident at infant age, she had become his sole responsibility. He’d raised her up as his own so that very few people knew that she was his deceased brother’s daughter. And how he had loved his brother!
Anire seemed to have taken after her father; proud, impulsive, stubborn which made Mola sometimes think that had he been a woman, she would have been addressing him by his name as though they were equals and yet, she possessed a spirit so sweet she brought bittersweet memories of the sacrifices his brother had made for him.
He could trust her to be safe out there. However, during this week, such confidence eluded him. He’d had dreams, strange terrifying dreams of Shimmi and his wife asking him to send Anire to them so much that he woke up at midnights all drenched in thick sweat. He prayed, bound and cast against the spirit of death. This was the main reason he’d sent for her, so that she would be close to him during this auspicious week. He found it quite ironical that he should have such dreams during such a period.
Three successive raps came on the door jolting him out of his thoughts. He opened it to the sweaty face of Chinma, his neighbour’s son. What he heard next sent him out of his house in a mad run. In the centre of a gloomy crowd gathered on the express road, he would find the mangled remains of what used to be his daughter’s body.
THREE DAYS LATER
“That’s my house over there, see my Daddy too,” the girl pointed at the green-and-white building.
The young man’s eyes followed the direction of her hand. “Finally, but I hope your Dad will be happy to meet me seeing that we’re coming here in the middle of the semester,” he commented.
She gave a confident laugh. “Fear not, Babes, my Daddy is the gentlest of men, I assure you.”
Arms linked, they continued walking towards the house. “You know, you never stop surprising me, Babes,” the young man said, “Why you decided that today of all days you want me to meet your father — “
Anire cut in. “Don’t tell me you’re scared of meeting him now, are you?” She unlinked her arm from his and faced him.
There was something about her stare that disconcerted him. “Never mind, we’re already here,” he replied.
She flashed him her sardonic smile. “You go on ahead,” Anire took off the crucifix from her neck and placed it in his palm, “Take this and show my Daddy. I am coming, let me pass water in that small bush over there.”
“Pass water?” the young man echoed, his voice ladened with incredulity. “Aren’t we already at your place?”
“Oh go on already! You weary me with your endless questions. Can’t a girl pass water in the bush again? Keep going, I shall join you. I’m so pressed!”
The young man shook his head, “You’re full of surprises, sometimes unpleasant ones,” He ignored her laughter and continued heading to the house.
At the house, the younger man greeted the older man and introduced himself as a friend of his daughter’s. He noticed however that the older man didn’t return his warmness. He bit his lower lip, this was what would have been avoided had that girl not decided to pull one of her tricks. Fancy passing water in a bush!
The young man then pulled something out of his pocket and showed it to older man.
“She asked me to show you this, sir. She’ll soon join us, she went to pass water in that small bush, she said she was pressed,”
As if in a movie, the older man’s sunken eyeballs slowly widened. They rolled to his left side to meet the mark of a freshly dug
grave where Anire lay cold and buried and then back to the fingers of the young man holding the undeniable crucifix.
Daddy, I will get my crucifix back.
The chinaware in his hands dropped and shattered into a hundred pieces.
Two lines of tears snaked down his face as Mola raised Anire’s crucifix to his lips and kissed it.