No, she wouldn't understand that all he had done was for her own good. She wouldn't understand that if Stella found them, she would be dead and he would be reliving the horror that had hunted him for five good years. A horror he was determined to put a stop to.
It all started with his mother's plea to have a date with her best friend's daughter. Stella was her name. His mother went on and on about how beautiful, intelligent and homely she was. She sang Stella's praises like she could do no wrong. Tobi had no hard feelings against this Stella. His only issue was the fact that his mother refused to understand that he was already in a committed relationship with his long time girlfriend, Fegiro. Everything he said to her, explaining the seriousness of his relationship, seemed to fall on deaf ears. And his mother was the sort that, once her mind was made up, it was annoyingly difficult to change it.
Being the proud owner of Tech Global, a company dealing in sales and repair of computers, phones, tablets, etc. The Company also sold computer and phone accessories, he had no time for outings. Business was booming, the advert and sales department had done a great job of spreading word about the company's awesomeness. With the boom, Tobi had to be on ground to ensure the smooth running if the company, at least, until he got competent hands he could trust.
And so on a spare Saturday, he had set up a date with Fegiro, his then girlfriend. Mostly they talked over the phone, did whatsapp chats and video calls. She too was really busy with growing her juice making factory.
It was going be fun for them to meet. Then she would spend the Sunday with him before returning to base on Monday.
They both looked forward to being in each other's company. A time was fixed for when she would arrive at the park so he could go pick her up. Fegiro didn't stay in Lagos. She was coming all the way r rom Port Harcourt. However, his mother chose that day to call, pleading that he should make out time to see her friend's daughter. To let the matter rest, he promised to see her, but he also told her not to get her hopes up as he was not interested in any other woman, romantically.
And so the time came. He got dressed and found his way to Stella's home, using the address his mother texted him. When he saw her, he agreed with his mom, she was beautiful. Even more beautiful than Fegiro. But that was not, for him, a criteria to pick a wife. What Fegiro lacked in beauty, she more than made up for with all the curves in the right places, intelligence and her determination to stick with him, even when he had nothing. His meal for a whole week during his days of lack, could be just bread and groundnut, sometimes, a little beans. Besides sticking with him, she helped him with the capital he used in starting Tech Global. And although the money has been tripled over and over again during the past 2 years, she refused to allow him repay her, let alone with interest. He understood then that she truly loved him for him and he fell in love with her even more. She was going to be his wife, companion and mother of his children. No one else would take her place.
So for Stella, even if she won a miss world beauty contest, he was not interested in her. She helped his decision when she started to talk too much. At some point, he got really tired of hearing her speak but was rescued when she suggested they take a stroll to the junction. He had not gone with his car, so yes, he had to walk and he was going to use the opportunity to take his leave. After the long stroll, he was happy to tell her there would be no marriage between them. She looked really heartbroken and sad, like she was already in the relationship. All the same, he was happy to walk away.
He met Fegiro at the park and apologized for his lateness. On their way home, he told her all about Stella and they both laughed over the story. So, imagine his surprise when 4 months later, he was called by his mother who asked that he came over to hers.
"So you were interested ba? You were just forming one kain thing", she teased him after he was seated in the living room.
"I don't understand what you're talking about mom".
"Don't play that game with me", she smiled, "Stella is pregnant and we both know you're responsible".
"What?" He was on his feet instantly, frowning. "Is this some kind of joke? I never touched that girl. I don't even like her. So how in God's name did I become the man responsible for her loose legs?"
His mother was taken aback, "but she says you're responsible".
"That is a big lie, mom. Are you going to believe her or me? This is just a futile attempt to trap me. And I refuse to be trapped".
Now his mother knew he was serious. Her son had always admitted when he did something - good or bad. And so she knew that if he was truly responsible for Stella's pregnancy, he would have said so. She couldn't stop him when he stormed out of her home. But she quickly placed a call to Stella's mum, telling her about the development.
"I don't believe him one bit", Stella's mom was furious. "Did my daughter Impregnant herself? And she insists that he is responsible. Its better you bring him to order o, Bola!" She warned, "it is because you're my friend that I have not taken any action. Warn him. He should do the right thing".
Mrs. Bola Olatunde was confused. Tobi had denied the child. He denied having anything to do with Stella, yet the girl insisted. She was sure, this issue was going to cause a rift between her and her best friend. She knew her son too well. If he said he didn't do it, then he didn't. She would stand by his word.
True to her thoughts, her stand on the issue caused serious quarrel between her and Stella's family. Tobi's dad got wind of the situation and questioned his son. Still Tobi stood his ground. The pregnancy was not his.
Fegiro asked him when he opened up to her about the problem, if he even for once, fancied Stella. He replied with a loud 'no'.
As he continued to deny the unborn child and Stella continued to insist it was his, he told them, "no problem. Let us wait until the child is born. Then we can carry out a DNA test to confirm if I am truly the father".
This seemed to sit well with all parties concerned, except Stella.
After 8 months and some weeks, she went into labour. Tobi was finalizing marriage plans with Fegiro when his mother called him. "Stella's mom just called me. Stella has put to bed. Its a boy. Your carbon copy".
The last word struck him like lightening. "What?" He asked
"The child is your exact look alike. Are you deaf? I'm at the hospital now. You need to come over". She told him the location of the hospital before cutting the call.
"What is it?" Fegiro asked, putting down the item she was holding.
"Stella has put to bed. I need to get to the hospital to clear myself".
When he arrived, everyone was present. He didn't greet them. He didn't even look at them. He simply walked straight to the baby cot and looked down at the child. The boy didn't look like him. He voiced his thoughts. But they countered him. Then he turned to Stella. "Congrats on your safe delivery. But that child is not mine".
"Are you blind?" Stella's, mom barked. "That baby's features have proved that he is your son. Therefore, you will marry my daughter and care for the child".
"Tobi", his mother called, feeling disappointed, "that boy is yours. He is your copy".
Why was everyone saying that? The child did not look like him in anyway. Tobi exploded with anger as he tried to defend himself. But no one believed him. Not even Fegiro, when the news reached her. She cancelled all preparations for their wedding and left. Tobi's plea couldn't stop her. Desperate and determined to prove his innocence, he asked for a DNA test to be conducted. But Stella refused, and so did her family. The child's resemblance to him was enough proof. Why subject the new mother to more stress?
Since no one would believe him, he changed his contact details and moved out of his house. Not even his parents knew where he moved to. He just didn't want to put up with their problems and neither was he going to spend a dime on the child. For charity sake, yes. But as a father's responsibility, no way.
He kept up with his business and tried all he could to make up with Fegiro. He called her, texted her, whatsapped, but she wouldn't reply him. He had to travel down to her place at Port Harcourt and really bug her until she accepted him back. That was his mistake. But he didn't know. He should have let her be. He should have tried to move on. But it was too late.
Two days after he returned to Lagos, he received a message from his company secretary that his mother had come by. She dropped a letter. In the letter, it was stated that Stella had died. They woke up to see her dead body, ripped open in the stomach. They said it was suicide, because she left a note to him. When everyone read the note, it was about missing him and wishing he had accepted her and the baby. Regretting ever loving him and swearing for bad omens to befall him. But when he read the note. It was different. It read:
"You cannot abandon my child. You cannot turn your back on him. You cannot leave him. Nothing in this world should be more Important than him. Anywhere you go, he goes. You will never leave him just to be somewhere else or with someone else. Know that I took my life so that my spirit will hunt you, anytime you decide to make your own rules. For I will kill all you hold near and dear and destroy all you have built. This, is a warning".
Tobi knew then that is battles were no longer physical but spiritual. I'll pray over it. He thought. And she can do me no harm. He burnt the letter, kicked the threat out of his mind and went on his way, leaving the child to Stella's mom.
It wasn't long afterwards, the deaths started. First it was Fegiro, on the day of their marriage. She slumped. No one knew why. And to think she was pregnant with his child. He had not finished mourning her when his business, Tech Global, folded up. Police suddenly got orders to shut it down. They said he was fronting for a drug cartel. He started to notice that everything he gave attention to, died. For example, after Fegiro's death, he had buried himself at the office with work. Hence it was shut down. With no job and no way of re-opening Tech Global, he started to hang out with friends. Unfortunately, the friends he hung out with started to die one after the other. He had to cut loose from friends and they too from him. Twice, he fell in love again, but both ladies died mysteriously. Scared he would loose his parents too, as everyone around him seemed to die, he cut off from them completely.
It was a stormy Saturday afternoon in his home, while thinking about his life and everything that had happened, that he remembered Stella's threat. But he had prayed, he refused to believe his prayers were unanswered. He was still thinking when in the midst of the heavy rain storm, he heard her soft voice say "My name is Stelyka, Stelyka Spew". He jumped. He knew that was Stella, she had introduced herself as that the first time they met.
"Get out of my house!" He yelled, holding the mop stick and looking around, wondering if he would catch a glimpse of her. He did. Her airy form walked casually from one end of the room to the other as she spoke,
"Remember our son. And remember", she paused and looked him straight in the eye "I have my eyes on you".
That was all he needed to remember that his problems would only be solved, if he cared for the little boy and if he really took him everywhere he went. Since his prayers were unanswered, he made a choice. Tobi ran out, got into his car and drove down to Stella's family house. He requested for the child who seemed very happy to see him. He carried him home and since then everywhere he went. His business reopened. He got back with friends and his parents. But he couldn't bring himself to tell them what was really happening. No one would believe him and Stekyka might strike back. His parents and Stella's parents were glad he was living up to his responsibility but they were also sad he waited for Stella to die first.
"You two would have made a great couple", his mother said. But he ignored her. She had no idea what he was going through.
Years passed, all seemed to go well, except for the fact that he was scared to fall in love again. One day, after dropping the boy off at school, he drove down to Bar Beach to clear his head. He was deep in thoughts when Benita walked up to him and said hi, smiling like she had won a jackpot.. At first sight, he took to her, mostly because in a kind of way, she reminded him about Fegiro. She too seemed to have taken to him instantly. He dreaded a relationship with her. Being just friends was enough. But Benita again, was truly like Fegiro in a lot of ways. She was persistent in ensuring she got his attention. And she did. He had started to think more about her and contemplating if it was right to risk a relationship, after all, he was already taking good care of the boy. He loved her. So much so, he went on a lunch date with her one Tuesday and forgot to pick up the boy from school early. Several times, he dropped him off at his mother's and then drove off to meet with Benita. After 4 months of seeing each other, Benita was still alive. So he thought Stekyka had taken pity on him.
But Stekyka was having none of it. She visited him again on a stormy night and told him Benita would die. He pleaded, but her laughter echoed in his room as she disappeared. A clear sign that his apology was not accepted.
Cold gripped him. He couldn't just sit back and watch another death happen. No way. He quickly swung into action, browsing the Internet and looking for information on things like what he was experiencing. He found something - a PDF titled 'The Book Of Evil Omens'. It said something about getting far way from town first with the person in question and the child too, so as not to anger the spirit of the mother some more. But before going, he was to sanctify the house with holy water and then pour salt mixed with the holy water around the perimeters.
He had a house in a closed location. Kind of forest. He actually bought large acres of land there and wanted to build an estate when all his problems started. It was a plan he was working on with Fegiro. And he had built the house to accommodate the labourers who would be working for him. That house was his best bet at carrying out the instructions in the book. For 3 the writer made it clear, if you stay in the city, the city life will disturb your plans and concentration.
The above was the real reason he brought her here. It was the only reason she was going to stay alive. The house was sanctified, just as it was instructed in the book of evil omen. It was Benita's only safe heaven. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to tell her. Her phone had been ringing, non-stop. He couldn't answer it. Neither could he allow Benita answer it. She would tell them she had been kidnapped and the ransom was 4million. After all, that was what he told her. The police would kick off investigations. They would find and swoop down on him. He would be arrested and then, he wouldn't be able to protect her.
"God help me". He whispered. "Please help me. This is just too much".
It was a while later before he moved away from the door. He went straight to the room at the end of the hall way. He pushed the door open slightly and peeped in, raising the lamp up so he could see. Timothy lay peacefully on his mattress. He turned at the opening of the door.
"Yes. Its me". He opened the door wider and stepped in, walking to the bed. "Why haven't you slept?"
"I'm afraid." He sat up. "Mummy will come now and kill the aunty." The little boy knew all that had been going on. Tobi couldn't hide it from him even tough he was just five years old.
"Shhhhh!" Tobi placed a hand against his lips. "Don't say things like that. This time, mummy wouldn't kill anyone. All you have to do is work with me. Will you?"
Little Timothy nodded. "Yes daddy."
"Good boy. Come here." He hugged him to himself. "Did you pee before coming to bed?"
"Good. Now you should sleep. Ok? We have so much work to do in the morning and I need you to be strong". He laid the little boy back on the bed. "You want me to sing you a song?"
"Yes." He nodded, smiling.
To be continued...
©Karo Oforofuo. February 2017
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