Freda Osari did everything possible to comfort Angel and put her back to sleep but all her efforts were futile. Angel cried even more as Freda danced around the room with her. When she got tired, she sat on the rock chair close to Angel's court and began to rock her to and fro.
Freda was a nice plump lady in her early thirties, she was about 5ft plus and light in complexion. She had a provision store and although it was a small one, she had lots of customers and so she was constantly on her feet. The day was indeed a hectic one for her but she was sad when her 11 months old husband, Edward Osari, did not come home that night. He usually slept in hotels with his concubines. Freda knew that her marriage had long gone sour and she did not know what to do to fix it. Everyday became a living hell for her. She thought about her husband briefly. They had indeed shared happy moments in the past but now, happy was part of their marriage history. Normally, when Edward didn't come home at night, Freda would cry but since she was already used to it, she took advantage of his absence to rest. At least she won't be bothering about his dinner, mid-night tea or whatever else he might need.
Unfortunately for Freda, she hadn't slept for more than an hour when she heard Angel crying in the baby court. The little child was always crying these days and it worried Freda.
Angel was her younger sister's baby. As Freda looked at the little girl, her thoughts went to her sister, Joan, who was presently lying on a hospital bed.
When Joan got pregnant, she happily made the announcement and they all celebrated it because it was long over due. Joan and her husband, Jeff Edeh, had been married for almost four years without an issue. They prayed day and night for a child and finally, she conceived.
Throughout the nine months pregnancy period, Joan was strong and everyone was sure that she would have a safe delivery. Well, talking about delivery, it was with shock Freda received the news of her sister's condition. During delivery, there were complications, Joan lost so much blood and finally went into a comma. To worsen issues, Joan's husband, Jeff, had a ghastly car accident on the way as he was rushing to meet his wife at the hospital. The accident cost him his left leg. Although he was still receiving treatment at the hospital, the doctors said he would never walk with that leg again.
Freda was thrown into confusion. What will she do? And how will she do it? Even paying the hospital bills was going to be a problem because she didn't have the kind of money the doctors were asking for.
One day when she went to see Jeff at the hospital, she discussed the money situation with him. In turn, Jeff told her where to get his land documents, he knew he could trust her because she had proven herself time and again to be a trust worthy person. He wasn't scared of his decision, even for once. He was very sure that nothing will go wrong.
"Sell my land" he said. "Use part of the money for the hospital bills and my baby's up keep. You can use some for yourself and then keep the rest for me."
Freda quickly got the documents and an estate agent who helped her sell the land. After the sales, she was very happy that all was well again but, her happiness was short lived.
Freda's husband, Edward Osari, was a struggling entrepreneur who cared less about his wife. His thoughts were mostly about himself and his business. At first when Joan's issue came up, he complained about Freda volunteering to take care of Angel. He had his own problems to take care of and as long as he was concerned, taking care of Angel was only going to result in more expenses and he didn't want that.
"This is my sister's child" Freda argued with him. "You want me to give her away just because of expenses? Do you even have a heart?"
"Look woman! If I didn't have a heart I wouldn't even have married you, okay. So get that child to the village, your mother can look after her."
"My mother? You mean the old blind woman in the village, who is sick at this moment right? How can you even think like that?"
"How I think is none of your business. Getting that child away from here should be." With that, he stormed out of the house. He didn't even touch his breakfast.
Situations went on that way, he stopped giving his wife money, even for food and for the upkeep of the home. There was also constant quarreling and arguments because of Angel. Angel seemed to know what was going on because she cried whenever they were at each other's throat.
However, things changed when Jeff asked Freda to sell his land. Edward was surprised to see Angel being well taken care of, his wife didn't ask him for money again and he came across the payment receipts from the hospital. He knew that his wife's provision store could not give her such amount of money. At first he suspected her of sleeping with rich men for money but, knowing the kind of woman he married, he quickly shook the thought out of his head. He decided that the best way to find out was to ask.
"Where did you get all that money from?" He asked one morning while getting set for work.
"I thought you didn't care" She replied him coldly.
"My wife is obviously in possession of huge sums of money and I have a right to know where it's from."
Freda didn't want to tell him because she knew that he would start making huge demands and forget what the money was actually meant for, but when he kept insisting and even threatened not to go to work until he learnt the truth, she told him about Jeff's land that was sold.
"How much did you sell it?" He asked after she told him about it.
"What?! 5 whooping million and I have been here looking for just 2 million to close a deal. I even told you about the deal, something that will fetch us so much money and you turned a deaf ear."
"That money isn't for us, and you know it. I am using from it to take care of Angel as well as her parent's hospital bills. Whatever is left will be returned to Jeff when he leaves the hospital. He is going to start a company of his own because his present employers have already said they won't keep him because of his new walking disability."
"How soon will Jeff be discharged?" Edward asked.
"Towards the end of the month."
"That's about two weeks away Freda. Look, just give me the money okay, I will pay it back in time. The deal will be closed latest tomorrow if I get the cash today. Before the month ends, I will pay that money back and even more."
"I can't. I know how you are with money Edward and I know you won't payback so, just forget it."
"Why are you being so inhumane towards me?" Edward yelled.
"Inhumane? Really? And this is coming from a man who asked me to throw away a month's old baby to the village just because he doesn't want to spend a dime on her? Let me remind you that the money you want belongs to her father."
"I know damn well who it belongs too. Now are you giving it to me or do I have to force you?"
Edward could be a very sweet man when he wanted to, in fact, it was his sweet nature that made her fall in love with him in the first place. But outside of that, he was ruthless and very violent. She knew that she would receive the beating of her life for refusing and she was prepared to take it all but then, something else happened. Edward didn't touch her, instead he headed for the baby's court where Angel was sleeping peacefully. Her eyes suddenly grew bigger as she realized what her husband was up to. She quickly ran towards the court but as she ran past Edward, he quickly grabbed her and pushed her towards the dressing table where she crashed on the mirror lying on it. The mirror broke and its pieces pierced her delicate skin, causing blood to flow out.
"Don't touch that child!" She yelled from the rugged floor as she tried to get up. "I will give you the money, just don't touch her."
Edward was already reaching for Angel inside the court but on hearing Freda's words, he paused and smiled wickedly to himself. He had been trying to get his bank to loan him the money but to no avail. Now, all that was history, he was going to get the money from his wife whether she liked it or not.
"Fine." He said as he turned to face her. "Now get dressed and let us be on our way. Meanwhile, I will stay here and watch over Angel.
The fear of any harm coming to her sister's child scared Freda out of her wits. She knew she had no choice than to co-operate.
Now, the month was just three days away from ending and Edward had not paid back the 2 million. Whenever she asked him, he would yell at her and threaten to beat her up if she continued to disturb him.
"What kind of man did I even get married to?" She asked herself. "What was so attractive about him?"
She came out of her thoughts and looked down at Angel. She was no longer crying but her big beautiful eyes looked up at her aunt, the one woman who's arms had protected and cared for her since she was born.
"Errr" she said in an attempt to console Freda and wipe the sorrowful look off her face.
"It's okay Angel" Freda replied with a smile. "I will be just fine."
Early the next morning, after Edward had gone to work, Freda was cleaning the house and preparing breakfast to take to her Jeff when she got an urgent call.
"Hello" She answered.
"Is this Mrs Freda Osari?" A female voice asked.
"Yes, I am Freda"
"Okay Mrs Osari, your presence is needed at the hospital immediately."
The call cut immediately afterwards, leaving Freda confused.
"What could have happened?" She wondered as she practically ran into her room to get dressed.
About 45 minutes later, she walked into St. Francis hospital with Angel in her arms and stopped in front of the receptionist who she was now familiar with. The receptionist was a young woman in her twenties, tall, dark complexioned and wore an all back weave. Her nails were short and neat and she was dressed in a nurse's uniform
"Esther, any new development?" Freda asked.
"Yes!" The receptionist replied with a smile. "Your sister is awake."
Freda wanted to say something but she could not find the words to say. Her sister had been asleep for more than two months. Surprise, anxiety and extreme happiness took over. Without another moment's delay, she turned and headed to her sister's room.
When she got there, she was even more surprised to see Jeff sitting by his wife. The couple looked happy and where actually having their alone moments when she walked in.
"Jeff, Joan." That's all she could say.
The couple looked up and smiled at her but Joan's eyes never left the little girl in Freda's arm. This was the first time she was seeing her baby since she gave birth over two months ago.
"Oh big sist, is that my baby?" She asked.
Freda looked down at Angel before answering. "Yes, she is."
She then moved closer and placed Angel on Joan's outstretched hands.
"Oh my baby" Joan said as soon as Angel was in her arms. She rocked her baby and planted several kisses on Angel's forehead.
Jeff stroked Angel's little curly hairs from where he sat on the bed beside his wife. "I named her Angel." He said at last.
"That's a fine name" Joan said in approval.
From where she stood, Freda watched her sister and brother in-law. A lot of things went through her mind but she did not know where to start. She wanted to know her sister's health condition and when she woke up. Was she going to be discharged immediately? What about Jeff? Had he been discharged? How were things going to be? Where will the family of three start from? What was she going to say about the money Edward was yet to pay? All these and more ran through her mind. She knew she will go insane if she continued that way but she couldn't help it.
"Freda are you okay?" Joan's voice brought her back to reality. "You look like you are seeing a ghost"
"It's nothing,really, I'm fine." She said forcing a smile on her lips. "When did you wake up?" She finally asked.
"Last night?" Freda asked in surprise. "Why wasn't I called then?"
"I asked them not to" Jeff answered.
"Why?" Freda asked with a frown.
"I knew you needed your rest."
"But I could have come."
"It was good you did not come. And for now, its good we all go home together, then we can talk and re plan our lives."
"Why are you sounding like this? What's going on?" Freda asked.
"Nothing." Joan lied. "I'm awake, my husband is fine even though he now has one bad leg, you are obviously okay, apart from the little scares on your left cheeks and my Angel is doing just fine. I think we should go home first, then we will talk."
"I know something is wrong. I felt it since Angel started to cry last night. Whatever is going on, I want to know."
"I don't care about buts. Just tell me what is up."
Jeff sighed in defeat. He knew nothing he or Joan said will change Freda's mind.
"So what? What about Edward?" She knew he didn't come home last night, it was his usual way. He chose when to come home and when not to, aside from from that, he had different concubines lined up for the different days of the week so if he was with one of them last night, that was none of her headache, in fact she didn't care. Maybe her sister and brother in-law were scared to talk so as not to hurt her feelings.
"If this is about his concubines, I am well aware of that. Its no news to me."
Jeff and Joan exchanged worried glances and that made Freda even more uncomfortable.
"I didn't know he had concubines" Jeff said. "But even then, its not about them, its something else."
The only other thing that crossed Freda's mind was the 2 million naira loan Edward forced her to give. It was a secret between her and Edward and although she knew she would have to come out with it sooner than later, she was still surprised how Jeff knew about it, that is, if he truly knew.
"Okay" She said. "If its not that, then what?"
Jeff struggled to his feet and then walked towards Freda with his walking stick.
"Freda" He said with a sad tone. "Edward is dead."
"What?" She asked in shock. "What are you talking about?"
"I was discharged earlier yesterday and so I came in to see Joan. While waiting at the reception, someone rushed in with your husband. He was terribly wounded and was covered in his own blood. I was only able to talk with him briefly before he gave up the ghost."
"Really?" Freda scoffed. She chuckled a little and then without warning of any kind, she passed out. Jeff was quick in catching her even with his bad leg. He couldn't risk having her fall to the floor.
The golden rays of the early morning sun filtered into the room where Freda was sleeping. She was mostly alone now and she didn't think she had the heart for another relationship. Freda got up from bed and checked the time before going about the day's activities.
It was now a month since Edward died and Joan and Jeff left the hospital. The burial was a silent one. Edward's family were very nice to her. They let her keep the house and did everything possible to make sure she was comfortable.
Although everyone said Edward's death was caused by the car accident, a deep investigation showed that it was a set up. He was actually murdered by one of his concubines who was now cooling off in a police cell and awaiting trial. Her grievance was that Edward got her pregnant and then denied ever knowing her. Well, Edward was becoming a total nuisance before he died but Freda didn't think he deserved to be killed like a chicken.
At the hospital, before he died, Edward was able to tell Jeff about the N2 Million which he borrowed. He pleaded with Jeff not to blame Freda and even went as far as confessing that he forced it out of her hands. He then pleaded with Jeff to help him ask Freda for forgiveness. He knew he had been wicked and abusive towards her.
Freda forgave him and everything he did to her. After all, It was useless holding grudges against the dead.
After her morning chores, Freda quickly got dressed and stopped at her provision shop to ensure that her employees had opened for the day and were already working. After that, she went to Chicken Republic to meet with Dan Abisoye, Edward's assistant manager.
"You said you wanted to see me" She said as soon as she was seated. "Well, I'm here."
"Thank you for coming Ma." Dan replied. "Ma, the thing is this. Before your husband died, he re-wrote his will. I know he didn't tell you but he has two children by his ex-wife who he really wanted to care for."
"Edward never told me about an ex-wife or about having kids outside our marriage. Why would he do such a thing?"
"Well, they say a man's secret usually comes out after his death but, I am not here to reveal secrets. I am here because your husband wanted you to run his business and use a percentage from the profits to care for his children. Their mother knows only how to spend and so he trusted you more than her. The documents for the hand over are ready and I am here to bring you up to speed about the company's dealings. Also he made a N2 million investment early last month. The profits of about 6 million just came in yesterday and this is the cheque."
Freda took the cheque from Dan and looked at it. So her husband wasn't lying when he said the investment was yet to yeild returns. Well, she knew she was going to find out more about her late husband, both good and evil, and unfortunately, his ex-wife and children too. After all, she was going to be having regular dealings with them now. Her only joy was that Jeff would get back his N2 Million and a little extra profit. He had really been nice to her and she was willing to repay his kindness in whatever way she could.
"So will you?" Dan's voice brought Freda out of her thoughts.
"Sorry" She apologized. "I wasn't following."
"Oh, I meant will you take yor husband's place in the company?"
"But I don't even know what his business is about."
"That's why I'm here Ma, to help."
"And I can trust you?"
"Yes you can."
"Okay then." She said after a brief thought. "I will take his place and put in the best I can."