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TWENTY

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‘Now …ma, I’m afraid I can’t drop you here.’
The taxi driver slowed on a street away from their
destination.

‘Let me …stop here.’ She told him.

‘This park is dangerous especially at this period
of the day- many innocent have been robbed,
molested, abducted, maimed and killed there.’
He had seen how she had sobbed in total
abandon, he had seen how she had she had
used shaky palms to wipe her tears. He pitied
her, wondering what must be her plight.

‘Let me …get off. Here is your fare.’
‘No ma’am, I’ll not forgive myself if I don’t
convince you otherwise. Whatever must have
happened to you should not make you end
your life awfully. ‘

She fiddled with her purse and brought out a
piece of paper. ‘Here …’She sniffed. ‘Take me
to the address. ‘

‘The arena!’ He gasped. ‘Ma, I heard…’

‘Tell me no more …just take me there.’ She
wheezed and burst into tears.
+++
***

At the sight of the crowd, her spirit sank
deeper.

She used her shawl to dab her eyes to enable
her see clearly as she walked closer. ‘What …
what happened? ‘ she managed with a hoarse
voice.

Nonetheless, the young man beside her heard
her and was a willing informant. ‘Mmmmh …
the combat was brutal and bloody, bullets flied
like no man business. ‘ He shook his head. ‘The
casualties were messy sights, especially the
calm guy, he was so good but he was
outnumbered, he was so bloody that some of
the people who came to see threw up. The
paramedics kept shaking their heads. I doubt if
some will pull through especially the calm guy.

She shivered like a single tree in a desert
during harmattan, she lurched and steadied
herself. Fresh tears trickled from her sore eyes
down her cheeks. She saw the blood all over
the ground, was that a piece of flesh on the
ground?’She blinked severally and her breathing  became heavy and the
bangs of frontal headache became frequent.
She had the police siren from a distance.

‘Hospital? ‘ She mustered with the left strength in
her. She placed both hands on her knees to
support herself.

‘Queen Esther medicals. ‘ He didn’t even look
at her.

She made to run but she felt her legs become
wax and she slumped to the ground.

Few saw her and came to assist her but before
they could reach her, she was on her feet
again.
She ran to the road. ETHEL was all her mind
screamed!
++++

***
Somebody please tell me his fate…’She said for
the third time breathless.

‘What’s wrong with you young lady, you don’t
come to a hospital and shout?’ A woman in her
mid fifties, clothed in white trousers and a top
approached her.

‘I need to know the state of Ethelbert Franklin,
Matron Please… . ‘ Her voice had a plea. She
wheezed.
A smartly dressed Doctor walked in to the reception.

‘Doctor Mark.’ The matron called. ‘You can
help her.’

He walked towards and her heart beat quickened.

‘Good day ma’am, how may I be of help to
you?’

‘Ethelbert Franklin… ‘ She coughed, her eyes
not leaving his face. ‘How is he? ‘

He narrowed his brows as he took in her
appearance. ‘What is your relationship with
him? ‘

‘I am the closest person to him.’ She blurted.

‘Emmm… ma, you have to come with me to
my office. ‘

‘No doctor …please tell me here.’

‘I insist you come with me.’

Doctor I beg you …please help me, what is his
state? ‘ Her eyes pooled and she trembled.

‘I’m afraid ma …’He saw her state and hesitated
in contemplation.

‘Doctor please… ‘

‘Emmm… due to the nature of  trauma sustained
and bullet injury, he lost much blood… he
underwent a major surgery on arrival but he
didn’t… ‘

‘No… no doctor… please don’t tell me that…
Oh no! ‘ She screamed, lurched and staggered.

They those at the reception had their eyes  her.

‘Calm down, listen… ‘ He covered the distance
between them.

‘No… no.’ She shook her head vigorously
before running out of the hospital. She missed
a step on the stairs and rolled all the way
down.
Still she helped herself up and continued
running.
She was going back, back to the root, Where it
all began.
Her last breath she would dedicate to fighting
back.
++++
***

She entered the sitting room in a combat
shorts, T shirt, face cap and Snickers. Three
sheaths were attached to the belt that held her
combat in place.

They turned to see the unannounced visitor,
the visitor who was not ushered in. They were
startled at the sight before them.

Her gaze swept around noticing few changes.

‘Hi Honey …’ Empress attempted with shaky
voice. ‘It’s good to see you.’

Hester gave her a cold stare that made her look away but said nothing.
She noticed they were in their favorite seats.

Empress flinched like she just suffered from
heat stroke.

‘It’s obvious I don’t belong here anymore.’ She
gave a sardonic smile. ‘What is showing on TV?’

Mesmerized yet shocked by her presence, they
stared at her in assessment.

She was slim, thin
was a better adjective barely a shadow of her formal self, she had two parts of
her face plastered and her left upper arm had
a crepe bandage around, she limped when she
walked.

Like a flash in a pan, she had a gun in her
hand and shot at one of the round, translucent
light above. It shattered into many pieces and
landed on the rug.

Agatha screamed in horror.

Empress jumped out of her skin and clutched the
cape of the blouse she had on shivering.

Douglas spirit sank more of guilt than the shot.

The gun had a silencer.

‘What is showing on TV? ‘ She repeated singly
yet emphatically.

‘A …a Chinese movie. ‘ Empress stammered.

She placed both guns before her on the centre table.

‘You all go over there and sit.’ She gestured to
the longest sofa.

Agatha jolted out of her seat, they all obeyed
because in their own various way, they saw a
Hester they never knew existed.

She pulled a side stool and sat facing them,
the distance of the centre table in between.

‘Since you all have decided to be who you’ve
been and I, who I am. There is no pleasantries
between us. I am here to demand answers to
series of questions. I need to answers straight
away. ‘ Her eyes met with Agatha’s who
lowered her head instantly. ‘How come my car
is out of the garage?’

She glanced at her Mum who looked away.

‘You mean …the pink car? ‘ She trembled uncontrollably.

‘Agatha, I am not here to play. ‘ She said
calmly.

Douglas glanced at his eldest daughter.

‘Ummmm …not …not quite long.’

‘Agatha I’ve never know you to be kind hearted
so I don’t believe you. I want the truth for the
last time. ‘

‘Emmmm …Hester …’ She glanced at her
mother who was lost in her own thoughts.

She narrowed her gaze.

‘I …I brought it out to warm it. ‘ She clutched
the hem of her top as her palms begin to
sweat.

‘For how many months have you been warming
it? ‘ Her eyes didn’t leave her.

‘Emmm …Hester …I …’ She glanced at her
mother for help but she was apparently loss in
her own thoughts and fears. ‘not quite long.’
She blurted.

‘I see.’ She cleared her throat. ‘When I was
given that car, you said it was low class, you
didn’t want me to park it side by side yours.
Now you use it to cruise around, saving your
two cars. I thought by now you would have
end your book on selfishness, jealousy and
wickedness. Hmmmm …’ She kept quiet for a
few seconds.

Agatha didn’t know if apologizing would make
any difference, besides she was not the type
that apologized, she allowed the silence to
prevail. she directed her gaze to her father.

‘There was a traditional marriage or payment
of dowry in my absence, how much was the
bride price?’ She directed her gaze to her
father.

Husband and wife exchanged looks.

Empress
went wide eyed as her heart beat quickened.

‘Honey …’

‘I don’t mean a thing to you Mrs Tobechukwu!
Spare me the endearment and cut to the
chase. ‘ She hissed and her voice had rose in
obvious irritation.

She blanched as hot tears stung her eyes, she
became tongue tied.

Once more she looked at her father, she
realized she didn’t hate him as much as she
expected to.

‘There was no traditional marriage for you
Princess…’

‘Shut up! ‘ She exploded in anger. ‘I am
warning you Mr Tobechukwu, remember I told
you you don’t mean a thing to me anymore.
Address me formally. I won’t repeat myself.’

She looked at Agatha who had gasped and
covered her mouth at her explosion before
looking back at her father. ‘Since there was no
marriage, how much did you sell me?’

‘I didn’t sell you.’ There was pain in his voice.

‘How much did he buy me then? ‘

‘Hester Please…’

‘If none of that happened, what backed up
Oladimeji? What boost his confidence? Why
was he so possessive? ‘ She stretched out her
legs. ‘Why did you tell me that being with
Oladimeji was the best for me? Why did you
readily give your second daughter to a man
she repels while your first daughter is heels
over head in love or lust with the same man.
What did he use in brain washing you that you
preferred him to me.’ She displayed no form of
emotion nor portrayed it in her voice.

‘Oh God …’ He muttered.

His wife nudged him knowing he was broken.

‘Tick tock,tick tock… I’m waiting. ‘ She sang but it didn’t
come out as a song since her voice was hoarse.

‘We accepted fifty million naira from Oladimeji
but Hester …’

‘Wait up …wait up …what …what did you just
say? ‘

‘Hester, we need you …’

‘Come again, what did you say!’ She
interrupted sharply.

‘We took fifty million naira from Oladimeji .’
Tears welled his eyes as he lowered his face.

She hung her head to digest the news, she felt
her head doubled in size and she used both
hands to cushion it. By the time she lifted her face,
tears rolled in torrents down her cheeks. ‘Why
…why …?How could think talk more of doing
this to me …how could you? ‘ She glanced up
momentarily and bobbed her head from side
to side. ‘How could you plunged into my heart
with an unsterilised dagger and still twist it.
How could you betray me so!.Why! Why …!’
She screamed and burst into tears.

Agatha and her mother trembled more of fear
of the result of her outburst.

Douglas head lowered as guilt surged through
him.
‘Fifty million naira …fifty million naira… ‘ She
glared at him beside herself with control not
to cover the distance them and hit the man
she had once Daddy into unconsciousness.

‘How could you have sold me for fifty million
when my least account don’t have million?
How could you have sold my sanity for fifty
million naira when my monthly salary in Hollywood
was more than that? That means I am of less
worth than your monthly salary! This is
unbelievable, not even in my gory imagination!
‘ She stood and her hand descended on her
waist. ‘Was there any time, you were in low
waters?’

‘No Hester.’

‘All my life, I have done everything to uphold
this family name, I saw how children of other
big shot rubbished their lives and that of their
family name. In how many years I batched a
reasonable number of degrees. Never for one
day did I drag your name to the gutters. Don’t
I worth more than many sons to you?’ Her
word were emphatic as she gestured.

‘You do.’ Her daughter ‘s achievement had
made the envy of most mothers in her clique
and has earned her respect, awards and
position even in church.
‘Then why …?’ She opened both palms before
her. ‘For over twenty three years I have loved
and cared about you with all that I am and
because of fifty million, you threw that all
away just for a pig to trample on.’ She
swallowed bitterly. ‘Because of money, you
forgot about my wants …my needs …my likes
…my dislikes …my dreams …my aspirations and
my future. ‘ Hester placed a hand on her chest
with her brows creased in heart felt pain . ‘You
rather I be with a man who is a drunk, a drug
addict and peddler, a man who is a
psychopath! You delight in me being with a
man who uses his privileges recklessly, a man
who cut down or burn up anything or anyone
that is on his path to accomplish his silly
ambition !’ Her irritation and anger was not
elusive in her voice.

She held a sofa and sobbed like never before as
memory of Osagie falling after been shot and
then an imagination of how Ethelbert must
have looked as he was wheeled into an
ambulance. ‘Oh God…you’re heartless, so heartless and callous.  ‘ She groaned before
looking at them once more. ‘Congratulations,
you killed Osagie Osahon and Ethelbert
Franklin. ‘

‘Whhaatt! ‘ The trio exclaimed.

‘The fifty million you collected from that
psychopath gave him the effrontery to shoot
Osagie and Ethel while they took turn
protecting me. ‘

Empress shuddered at the implication of the
statement.

Agatha placed a palm firmly over her mouth.
Douglas just stared his mind blanked out and palpitations set in.

‘How about a round of applause, how about a
standing ovation? ‘ She smiled thinly. ‘You’ve
deprived the world of two dynamic icons. ‘

‘Oh my …my …’ Douglas hung his head in
profound regret.

‘Oh honey! We are sorry…please…  ‘ Empress said, tears
clouding her sight.

‘Sorry…?’ Hester scoffed and would have
laughed haughtily if not for the pain and
disappointment, that saturated every fibre of
her being . ‘tell that to the engineer’s family, tell that to the family of the ex president? ‘

Empress placed both hands on her head and shook both legs. 

‘How about me, what has this
money done to me emotionally, psychologically,
physically, mentally and so on.’ She held her
abdomen as she exhaled. ‘Why did you deprive
me of my loved ones? You didn’t even allow
me mourn by best friend before you came with
the fuss about Oladimeji …Why do you hate me
so? ‘

‘Princess we love you so much. Sweetheart, I
love you with all my heart. I have always
wanted to give you the best never knowing it
was going to turn out like this. ‘ His voice was
shaky.

She stared at him as one that blasphemed.

‘Honey I love you very much, you’re my pride,
I love you very much. ‘

Her tears came down
and she made no effort to wipe them away.
‘When we christened you, the minister that
officiated called us aside and said you were
born to be a catalyst of revolutionary to your
generation, you’re a blessing and joy that will
leave indelible mark for generations unborn to
see. ‘ She sneezed. ‘He said you were destined
to be a first lady. That is why we did what did
honey …we had no intention of ever hurting
you. ‘

Hester frowned with an expression that
suggested the mum just spoke Spanish.

‘Princess is true. We didn’t mean for it to be like
this.’

‘So much for my happy ending aye. ‘ Hester
smiled bitterly. ‘I suppose you deserve a round
applause once more for influencing my
destiny. For playing God …’ She shook head and took
a couple of steps forward limping. ‘I expected
better of you all, what has serving God taught
you! What has education and traveling around
taught you! I am disappointed! ‘ She closed her
eyes briefly and sighed. ‘I could be a first lady
to a Nigerian president, American or
whichever, that wasn’t specified. I don’t know
how you think you can help God to accomplish
his plan and purpose for my life. ‘ Her nose
was now weeping and she brushed them away
with her palm.
‘Thanks to you all, it is going to be in my
biography that I contributed to the death of
two icons and couldn’t fulfill the joint dream
Victoria and I shared and had to entrust all her
possession to me for it’s fulfillment. ‘ She
picked both guns. ‘The second reason I came is
to give you the pleasure of ending the life
you’ve ruined.’

‘Hester please …I’m sorry for everything I have
ever to you. ‘ Agatha looked up at her sister,
tears had smeared the make up on her face. ‘I have been
selfish, insensitive and very jealous of you ever
since I heard of the revelation and because
you seem to walk in the right and  acknowledged
way. I’m sorry for attempting to take your life
twice. Which sister does that. ‘ She sobbed and
her body trembled. ‘Instead of me to emulate
you, I resolved to hatred. I am sorry Hester …
do forgive me please. I love you and am sorry
baby sis that it took me so long to realize I am
blessed to have you. Please …I’m tired of my
kind of life. Help me …I want to live a
dignified life like yours.’

Empress stopped crying and stared at her
daughter flabbergasted.

Douglas looked her with raised brows.

‘Too late Agatha because I die today. ‘

The door opened and they received yet another
shock.

He walked in gallantly and menacing with two
escorts behind. He stopped short when she saw
her.

‘Are you crazy! Are you finally out of your
naive mind! How dare you barge into my
parents privacy! ‘ Anger possessed her entire
being.

‘Hey! ‘ Oladimeji beamed. ‘Take it easy, at least
for old time sake.’

‘You are very silly Oladimeji! You need you
caution you embodiment of nothingness because
sooner before you realize it, you will ease to
your destruction! ‘ Her eyes flashed as she
locked gaze with him.

‘Notwithstanding, you should respect me. ‘ He
tipped the shoulder part of his blazers.
‘I am going to be the president of Nigeria. ‘ He drawled.

She had come close but maintained a
considerable distance. Hester spat at him and
her right palm went around her head to avert
the evil. ‘God forbids bad things, you are not
excluded even though you’re his creature! ‘

‘Go get her! ‘ He ordered wiping his face.

Her father stood ready to defend her but he
received a surprise. Before one could say –
bingo, she pulled the trigger twice and his
aides were down.

Her family members went wide eyed seeing her
in raw action for the first time.

Oladimeji looked back at them and couldn’t
hide his disappointment when he looked at
her.
‘Get down on your knees! ‘

‘You must be insane! ‘ He glared at her.
She went down the four steps that separated them
fighting the urge to shoot him in both legs.

He waited for her.

She raised her right fist to his jaw but he
suspended her hand in mid air.

She was quick
to use her left hand to meet her earlier task and
delivered double blow to his groin.

He yelled as he clutched his groin and slumped
on his knees.

But Hester was not done. When he lifted his
face, she smacked him hard across the face.

Just as he tasted blood in his mouth, tears
stung his eyes and his ears rang. He gnashed
his teeth.

Hester climbed up the stairs and returned to
her earlier position. ‘Agatha go get the
briefcase. ‘ Her eyes not leaving Oladimeji.

One of his aide had walked in with the
briefcase, Oladimeji reached out to grab it but
she shot at his arm purposely missing it.
He retracted his arm and looked at her
browbeaten.

‘No Hess … I …I can’t. ‘ She trembled in panic.

‘Agatha! ‘ She thundered.

She jumped to her feet, she needed no
interpretation of the impatience and irritation
in the call.

Agatha stood with the case between her sister
and parents.

‘Open it.’ Hester instructed.

‘I can’t Hester, it’s coded.’

Oladimeji regained his confidence and smiled.

Hester reached into the back pocket of her
combat and brought out her phone, opened an
application and handed it to her sister.

Douglas and Empress watched with eyes barely
blinking. Empress had a hand over her mouth.

‘Side to side with the code pad and type the
number that appear on the screen. ‘
Agatha did as she was told. The briefcase
opened.

‘What! ‘ Oladimeji mouth went agape.

‘They contain documents …documents of
signed agreement among Dad, Mum and Him
concerning you.’

Hester tapped her feet thoughtfully. ‘Daddy get
your cheque book, give his money back to
him.’

‘I don’t have to give him a cheque Sweetheart,
I still have his money.’ He turned to his wife
who hurried to their bedroom and came back
with a case which she dropped beside
Oladimeji who stared at the case like a child
who lolly pop has just been snatched.

‘Tear everyone of those papers. ‘ Hester told
Agatha. ‘Tear them all.’ She coughed and her
eyes welled once more.
She watched as Agatha obliged her. ‘I have my
life back but it doesn’t matter anymore to me.’

She advanced towards her parents to hand over
the guns. ‘End my life.’

‘No …no …no honey please. ‘ Empress said
shaking her head too.

‘Please Hess …forgive us.’ Douglas bit his lower
lips as the tears he had fought back for so long
came rolling down.

‘It’s too late to apologize. It’s too much to
forgive for all.’

‘I beg of you Hess …’ Agatha knelt. ‘Please …’

She swallowed hard. ‘How do I go about it …
how do I start? Do I forgive for the untimely
death of Osagie or that of Ethelbert or is for
the injuries others who stood by me suffered? ‘
She wheezed and coughed. ‘Do I forgive you
for the betrayal, the disappointment, lack of
peace, all the bleeding …all the
unconsciousness, all the surgery I had to
undergo, all the emptiness, sleeplessness and
all the suffering. Which …which do you think I
should forgive you for? ‘
Silence prevailed until Douglas spoke.
‘Forgive us for them all and live again, Princess
please… ‘

‘There is nothing to live for again, he was ready
to do everything for me but now he is no
more. I haven’t forgiven myself for their death, so
I can’t give you what I don’t have.’

Oladimeji stared with a blank mind.

Hester wheezed and bend over holding her abdomen.

‘My head…’She mumbled and slumped to the floor.

‘Hester!!! ‘ They cried out and hurried to her side.

Empress shook her and burst into tears.

Douglas lifted her. ‘My car keys.’ He told Agatha.

They ignored Oladimeji completely.

THAT NIGHT,

The doctors and nurses battled using all
necessary equipment, expertise and experience
to save the life of Hester.

Her family paced along the corridor, wept and
prayed for her. Regret could be seen on their
foreheads.

Oblivious to them, there was wailing
somewhere else.

Then,
breaking news.

A moment of gloom and darkness as the president of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria had been assassinated.

TWO DAYS LATER,
Oladimeji was arrested by an international
agency against crime.

++++

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