COPYRIGHT © 2020 ESTHER UGBAJA.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the author.

DISCLAIMER:
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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E-mail: ugbajaesther@gmail.com
Website: exceptionalstar.wordpress.com
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1


At the balcony, Ini Okoh stood engrossed in thoughts. How is possible that I’m a prisoner in my home? How can I be happiest outside my home? A sigh pealed from her lips.
At fifteen years of age, she had a flawless olive skin, striking eyes, was slender and taller than most of her age mates.
“You cheated! You cheated, Amaka. Let us play again.” The voice from the next compound jolted her. From the balcony, she saw a group of four girls about her age. They were playing the tinko tinko game, a game in which two or more faced one another while singing the theme song. Her eyes lingered as they interchanged hands front and back. She glanced at other children in their groups playing other games. The house was the most populated in the estate.
It was two weeks since she returned home for holidays but her mother wouldn’t let her visit any of her friends. She shook her head repressing memories of their several dialogue.
“Ini— Iniobong!”
“Yes mum.” She hurried into the house.
“What’re you doing out there by this time?” Imaobong glared at her daughter before rummaging the content of her handbag. She was dressed in a blue and yellow flared Ankara gown with a matching scarf tied in style.
“I’m done with my chores, mum.” Her eyes were fixed on her toes.
“I’ve a meeting for eleven. Taw the stew and boil rice for lunch. Help yourself to dinner if I’m not home by 6pm.”
“Okay ma.” She massaged her forehead.
Zipping her bag shut, Imaobong spared her a glance. “What is it?”
“I need your approval to attend Nnenna’s birthday celebration on the day after tomorrow.”
“No party, dearest.”
“Nnenna is my best friend, I need to be there for her. All my classmates would be there.”
“That is how you children of these days go to parties, make a mess of yourselves and give your parents untold heartache.”
“But mum,” her brows creased. “She’s the deacon’s daughter. It would be in her house and under the supervision of her parents.”
“Madam, I said no.”
“She’s old enough to take care of herself. A celebration with her classmates won’t hurt her.” Indi, her older brother of five years had strode into the sitting room.
Her eyes shot daggers as it glanced from son to daughter. “When I was your age, I wouldn’t dare mention the word-party. But now…” her laugher was mirthless.
“That was then mum, this is now.” His voice was firm.
“The conspiracy between you and your sister won’t work.”
“It’s no conspiracy mum. I’ve been asking to go see my friends, you won’t allow me neither would you allow them come see me. You won’t allow me talk to the girls in the next compound.” Tears formed in her eyes.
“You’ve WAEC to face next year young lady. You better start preparing.”
“But that’s all I do in boarding school, mum. That’s all I do all day since I’ve been on hols”
“Her social life is vital to her growth and development. I’m offering to go with her.”
Imaobong clapped her hands. “You’re growing to challenge me and I feel for you with all my heart. Get out from my sight.”
Ini stepped away. She slumped to the ground when the door slammed shut and burst into tears.
Indi sighed and cover the distance between them to console her.


“I wish dad was home more often.” Ini wiped the plates and arranged them on a rack.
“We can’t always have what we wish for.” His eyes was focused on the screen of his phone with his fingers busy with winning the game he was playing.
For a moment, she stared into space. “I love daddy so much.” Her lips parted into a smile. “He is so understanding and different from mum.”
“Yea.”
“How I wish he will be home more often.” She wiped her hands and pulled another stool close to her brother.
“He is with us too, he is serving the country.”
She let out a breath. “Sometimes, I wonder what would have been our fate if mummy was in the military.”
Indi laughed so hard that held his knees as support and when she didn’t join him, he stopped. He studied the girl he had known all his life. He pitied her just like he pitied himself because they were malnourished of their mother’s love.
“Don’t worry baby girl, we’ll be fine. It’s your friend’s birthday today.”
She shrugged.
“We can go and return before mummy gets back.”
Her face light up but was soon to be replaced with horror. “No o big brother. You know mum and her ways, she might walk up to Nnenna’s mum just to find out if I attended. I don’t want wahala. Besides, she might kill me this time.”
He stood and took her hands. “I love you dearly and will do all I can to protect you.”
She embraced him. “Thank you. I don’t know what I’d have done without you being around.”
“Let’s take a stroll before you get all emotional and stain my shirt with your golden tears.” He fled knowing she would throw a punch.


“Nkem, he is asleep.” Ijeoma Ugorji announced and lowered herself beside her husband.
Ugonna lowered his phone on the bedside table. “Since you’ll be away on the educational retreat for one week. We need to make preparation for Nna. He will stay at home till I get back from work.”
Her eyes widened in alarm. “You want him to bring apart all the gadgets in this house while feeding his curiosity.”
“Oh Nne,” he chuckled. “He knows better than that.”
“No, Nkem.” She shook her head. “I won’t accept the risk of electric shock with my only son.”
“All right. Let me hear your plan.”
“I intend to discuss with Mama Bisi, our neighbour upstairs. If she agrees, Chidubem stays with her until you get back from work each day. Before we know it, I’m back home.”
He sat back thoughtful.
Her brows creased. “What’s on your mind?”
“I don’t believe in intruding in another privacy. Besides, we don’t know this woman.”
“Her children are grown up and she is a grandmother too. Chidubem will be just fine with her. It’s not like he is still a toddler.”
He shrugged. “See her then.”
She reached over and kissed him.
He beamed. “I’ll go lock the doors.”
Chidubem was eight years of age. His mother, a vice principal while his father was a manager in a telecommunication company.


“Ma, you shouldn’t have bothered.” Ijeoma said when a tray of crackers and soft drink was set before her.
“I should bother my dear.” Mama Bisi sat across her. “It’s not every day I entertain guests or neighbours.” Since she had not given up on sophisticated lifestyle even at sixty three years, she looked ten years younger. She was a proud mother of five children and a grandmother.
“Thank you ma.”
“Chidubem can come stay with me. I am happiest when my grandchildren visit.”
Ijeoma genuflected. “You’ve relieved me and I’m grateful.”
“I am a bored woman and sometimes have to rearrange the house just for lack of what to do.” The older woman chuckled and Ijeoma joined her.
“My husband will pack him lunch and ensure he has breakfast before coming.”
“Iya Chiamaka,” Mama Bisi frowned. “I fed my children well and will take good care of your son. Please don’t make Papa Chiamaka to start doing kitchen work o.”
Ijeoma couldn’t help but chuckle at her tone and emphasis. “My husband was a better cook than I was when we were courting.”
“Between then and now is a long time.” She drawled snapping her fingers. Ijeoma laughed.


Share your thoughts on this chapter via the comment section, I’m looking forward to hearing from you. 😘Next chapter will be on Wednesday.

Do you have a copy of my latest story on Okadabooks Lost, Then Found? The journey of a woman who stabbed her husband and had to find herself.