The sun was already high up and the weather was hot. But thanks to the surrounding trees, they had some shade and breeze. It was 10:15am when Tobi finished with the last part of the barb wire fence. He then went on to sprinkle salt and holy water at the foot of the fence. It was his way of preventing Stelyka from entering the premises and harassing people through the windows.
"That should hold her away for a while", he said to Benita as he walked up to where she sat at the entrance.
"We should pray too", she said, her eyes taking in the sweat and sand that covered his body, "you need a bathe".
He chuckled, looking at her, "so do you".
She nodded, smiling. "I'll bathe Timothy first", she offered. "Then I'll have my bath. Just go take care of yourself".
He looked at her, wondering what sort of a person she was. Benita had accepted his story, and she had accepted Timothy without further questions or drama. She was a rare type and he silently thanked his stars for such luck in choosing a girl. He couldn't tell what sort of drama he would have been going through had it been someone else he got on Stelyka's list of kills. "Thanks, Benita", he finally found his voice. "I appreciate that you warm up to Timothy, despite everything".
She turned to look at the little boy still enjoying short rides with his bicycle. "He is loveable, Tobi. I can't help but like him".
"Even When you know his mother is out to kill you?"
"He is a victim too. We all are".
Tobi nodded. He spent a little extra time looking at Timothy still riding his bicycle, before heading into the house. In his heart, he was grateful for Benita's maturity and thoughtfulness. She was a rare gem.
"Timo", Benita called from where she sat
"Yes aunty", he answered without looking up.
"Its time to bathe".
"Daddy will bathe me", he called back.
She smiled at his choice. One couldn't expect anything less. Tobi had since been his daddy, mummy, aunty, uncle, nanny, teacher and sibling. "I know you love your dad. But I am going to be your nanny for a while, as well as your mummy. So come on, let's go and get you cleaned up. Noon is almost here".
He ignored her until she stood up and walked up to him, obstructing his way. "Timothy?"
He stopped riding and looked up at her, scratching his head. "Ok", he said grudgingly . "But I still prefer my dad".
"I know. But you haven't had a real mother. Wouldn't you like to know what it means to have one?"
He stared at her for a while. A smile gradually curved his lips. "A real mummy? Yes please" he grinned. Benita laughed. He dumped his bicycle and grabbed her hand. "Are you going to do for me all the things mummies do for their children?" He asked.
"Yes. All of it". Benita wrapped her hands around his small one and led him towards the house. "You know what Timo, if we all survive this, I will really love to be your mummy forever. Yes?"
"Yes!" He jumped.
After they had all freshened up, Benita found her way into the kitchen, wearing a green sleeveless shirt and blue jeans Tobi had given to her. He had said that the food available would last them two months, depending on how they managed. With that thought in mind, she was in the kitchen to prepare lunch only for Timothy. She and Tobi were to eat from the biscuit pack and ground nut bottle in the room. With a glass of juice to wash it down, they would be ok.
She prepared indomie with one fried egg for Timothy. After eating, they played with him until he slept off. Tobi took him to his room for the afternoon nap. It was only then they had the chance to quietly eat their biscuit and groundnut. Tobi got a pack of Chivita juice and poured the content into two glasses.
They had finished eating and were relaxing under a tree shade within the premises when Benita brought up the topic that had been in her mind all morning.
"We need to pray", she said, "without prayers, we won't overcome this. I am not a prayer warrior. In fact, my prayer life is nothing to write home about. But I do believe in God and I believe in his miracles, his grace, his salvation. Please Tobi. We can't rule God out of this if we are going to survive". She looked at him.
Tobi sighed. They had remained locked up in the house long enough. And so he had actually been thinking about taking a stroll to see the Hausa men he hired to guard the property, especially the house, at night. And he had wanted to ask that Benita accompanied him. Only for her to bring up the issue of praying again. How many times should he pray for one thing? If God was going to answer him, he would have done so years ago. Fegiro wouldn't have died, his other girl friends wouldn't have died, neither would his friends have died.
"Benita, I'm not going to argue about this. But if you feel praying will help, then so be it. Please pray".
"Sure. But we should start praying together. The three of us. There is definitely power in numbers".
"Why must we join you?" Tobi frowned. "I'm doing what I know works best. And I'm doing it alone. You can also do yours alone".
It was Benita's turn to frown. "Alone? Apart from Timo, who helped out with the fence this morning?"
"Arrrrr!!" Tobi grunted inwardly. Benita knew where to get him. Sure, he wasn't against prayers. There was a time in his life he prayed fervently. But ever since his unfortunate situation and unanswered prayers, he decided to let praying be. However, he could see that Benita was out to frustrate his life if he refused.
"Ok. You helped out". He admitted,"we will all pray together", he covered her right hand with one of his. "Is that ok?"
"Thank you" she smiled at him. They were in the forest, and of course, no electricity. But she still had some battery in her phone. It was certainly going to be enough to type an email, explaining her situation to the prayer team in her church. Benita hadn't been all that strong with prayers. She just said a little at a time and believed strongly that it was heard and would be answered. Her believe usually worked, hence she believed more in faith than too much prayers. She would inform the team and still pray for herself, Tobi and Timothy. Then she would fall back, unwaveringly, on faith. Stelyka would have to leave her alone and go to hell where she belongs.
True, she couldn't tell Tobi her plans to inform the prayer group. He would kick against it, maybe even sieze her phone too. He obviously didn't want outsiders knowing about his unfortunate situation and then stigmatizing poor Timothy. But the earlier they were all free from Stelyka, the better for them. She would type and send the email message. It was a good thing she still knew the prayer team's email address by heart. She was mentally mapping out how the email should be written when Tobi's voice distracted her.
"....You're not saying anything. You don't want to come? He asked.
"Sorry. I was away in thoughts. Where are we going?"
"To check on the guards and to be sure everything is in order".
"You have guards here?" She was surprised.
"Yes. Some Hausa guys. Since they need a place for their cows to graze and I needed security to avoid land encroachment, I hired them".
"Do they know we are here?"
"Yes. They guard the house at night".
"That means they know about Stelyka".
"I don't know", Tobi sighed. "Its possible she has visited them. It is also possible she has not. That's why I need to go check on them and return before night fall. Are you coming?"
"We can't leave only Timothy by himself". She reasoned
"He will be fine. We're not going to be long."
The walk through the forest was sign enough that they were not alone. Prints of cow hooves lined the ground, as well as cow poo. Some parts of the forest smelt badly of cow pee.
"Why do cows have to smell so bad?" Benita complained. Tobi chuckled.
"We will smell worse, if we pooped without cleaning ourselves up".
It was well over 30 minutes when they arrived at a small clearing. Three big huts stood in it. There was a fire spot for cooking at the middle of the three huts. Three small stools surrounded it. At the foot of the stools were three small kettles. A few clean clothes hung on a drying line. But there seemed to be no one around. The place seemed deserted.
"Hello?" Tobi called out as they advanced closer to the hut, "is anyone home?"
He called out for the third time before a timid young girl, about 13 years old, appeared at the entrance of one of the huts. Her yellow ankle-length gown had some black stains on it.
"My papa e no around" She said, "Take malu out to eat".
Tobi nodded in understanding. "What about your mother?"
"Mama? No mama", she shook her head.
"I'm sorry to hear that", Tobi said. He wondered how the young girl was coping without a mother. "Please tell your papa I came to say hello. I'll find time to come back. Maybe tomorrow afternoon".
The girl nodded timidly, and they left.
"Poor girl", Benita said after they had made their way back into the forest. "She seems to be without care".
"I only hope she's not being abused by her father or the other men".
"Let's hope not. Else we will have another case to handle".
Tobi decided it was best to enjoy the fresh breeze some more by taking through a longer route. Thanks to the Hausa men and their cows, there were bush paths everywhere. Along one path, they came in view of a mango tree.
"Wow!" Tobi said, looking up at the reddish yellow fruits. A lot of them were ripe on the tree. "If only we had brought a bag along".
Benita chuckled. "Well, we did not. We will have to take only what our hands can carry".
And so they plucked eight mango fruits. One stayed in each side of their pant pockets and the others were held in their hands. They laughed at each other as they struggled to keep the mangoes in place.
Not long afterwards, the duo continued on their journey home, cracking jokes and telling stories as they walked.
The sun was setting already when they sighted their recent home some distance away. However, they were in no hurry. Tobi found some wild flowers. He stopped, bent over and plucked two.
"What do you need those for?" Benita asked
Tobi said nothing. He simply got to his feet and carefully stuck the stem of the flower into her hair. "There! Now you look like a Nubian queen".
Benita smiled. "You're trying to be romantic?"
Tobi faked a frown. "I thought I have always been romantic".
They both laughed
"You were before you kidnapped me", she joked.
"Arrrggg!" Tobi rubbed his head, "I wish I had kidnapped you to the altar, instead of this dead zone."
They were quiet for a while. His words had great effect on her. Before their recent situation, she had hopes that he would make out time to see her parents and they would get married afterwards.. But with all that was happening, she wasn't even sure what the future held. In as much as she wanted to have strong faith, she knew she was wavering. Besides, what was the use of faith when she hadn't said a prayer?"
"Do you think I will survive this?" She asked
"I don't know what to think", Tobi replied as he carelessly rested against a nearby tree. "I only know that this time, if she hurts you, she will have to hurt me too". He turned to face Benita. "If she kills you, she'll have to kill me too".
"What about Timothy? Surely she wouldn't leave him alone".
"No. I guess she'll find him another father or mother". He sighed.
Benita sighed too. If only Stelyka will just let them be. She couldn't say what Tobi had gone through. Only a few hours knowing about Stelyka and she had been very tense, worrying and for the first time in her life, really thinking about what the future held in store for her. Death? Or life? Tobi had been strong. And she had to find a way to be strong with him. She placed her mangoes on the ground, moved forward, took his hands and pulled him away from the tree into her embrace. She felt him chuckle.
"This is good consolation" he said, and then pulled back a little to look at her, "I never thought you'd agree to hug me again".
It was her turn to chuckle, pulling him back into a tighter embrace. "We never know what we are capable of, until we do it".
They stayed locked in that position, relishing in each other's embrace. Her soft fronts pressed into his, making him inhale deeply as a sudden warmth spread through his body to his lower torso. His hard frame against her soft body was enough to cause chaos. She had often wondered what it would be like to just remain in his embrace. And now that she was in it, his hard body was not the only thing that caught her attention. The bulge between his legs did, pressing against her abdomen.
They were suddenly not aware of the cool breeze or the darkness that was beginning to envelop them as night gradually approached. Different questions raced through their heads. Questions that needed answers. Tobi was the first to speak.
"We don't know what the future holds. And we might never know what it would be like to be together, naked, in bed.
Benita sighed deeply. He was right. She would have loved to tease him, to take him back to her room in the house and make love to him passionately. Maybe it would be their only chance to be together. No, she was no saint. She had done it before even though her pastor had preached uncountable times about abstaining from sex until after marriage.
However, she knew that if she was going to get response to her prayers and be relieved of Stelyka, she had to let the idea of having sex with Tobi out of her mind. But it didn't stop her from pulling back a little and planting wet kisses on his lips. He kissed her back, passionately. While the kissing progressed, one hand went below, grabbed her behind and pressed harder against his erection. Their lips continued to tease each other, licking and savouring each other's taste. Volts of pleasure rushed through their bodies. Moans escaped their lips. Tobi's hands soon moved beneath her blouse, unhooked her bra and pushed it aside, before raising up her blouse and taking her right nipple in his mouth, while his thumb teased the other. She held him close, wanting more of what he was doing to her. Her head fell back in pleasure as Tobi shuttled between one nipple and the other. He was going for the zip of her jeans when he felt her pull back sharply.
"Beni..." her name froze in his lips when he looked up at her. Her expression was grave as she looked past him and even pointed to something behind him. Tobi turned around. His eyes fell on the black hairy form of a very huge gorilla some distance away, staring at them angrily. One gorilla joined the first. Then another, and then 2 more. Tobi' jaws dropped open. But not for long. He got his act together, grabbed Benita by the hand and raced madly towards the house. The gorillas slammed their fists against their chests, roared loudly before engaging in a fierce pursuit.
Their hearts slammed heavily against their chests as they maneuvered road block, trees and even a few pot holes created by erosion. While Tobi thought about crossing the barb wire fence so as to be protected, Benita said words of prayers, asking God to forgive their sexual exploits and give them protection. It was stupidity to forget that they were in the forest and some distance away from their safe haven. If God could spare them this one time, then he certainly could spare them forever.
When they started to hear the running feet of the gorillas drawing closer, Tobi was sure they wouldn't make it. Benita was sure they were as good as dead already. But they kept the pace. They were not so far from the fence now, if only they could just make it. But as they drew closer, the unexpected happened.
At the sound of the gun shot, Tobi grabbed Benita and forcefully pushed her through the open barb wire gate. Then he threw himself forward as more gunshots rented the air.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!!!
Then silence. Benita was the first to get up. She ran over to where Tobi lay, writhing in pain as he held one leg against his chest. Apparently , when he threw himself forward, one of the strong wires pushing out from one side of the fence caught and ripped his trouser open at the left side of his leg and made contact with the flesh beneath it.
"Tobi", Benita cried as she knelt over him, inspecting his wounded leg. Three Hausa men appeared at the gate entrance just in time. They were dressed in long robes and jungle boots. Their rifles and bags hung from over their shoulders. The elderly one amongst them asked Benita to move aside. He bent over to examine the leg while Benita cuddled Tobi to herself, petting him and promising he'll be fine.
"It is a deep cut". The man spoke at last. Benita was surprised at his English . Despite being a cattle rearing Hausa man, his English was clean, of course, with a little Hausa accent. The man took his bag off from over his head and opened it. He took out a small round object that looked like a balm container and gave it to Benita. "My hands are dirty. I shouldn't be the one to do it. After washing his leg, apply this. It has a bad smell and it would make him scream. But it will heal the leg quickly.
"Thank you", Benita said, taking the balm from him.
"Thank you." Tobi managed, as he pulled free from Benita's embrace and struggled to get to his feet. The elderly man helped him up. Benita thought he was too strong for his age.
"I am happy to help. You should not go out without being on guard. You are lucky we were passing by. The gorillas are dead. Something wanted to use them to fight you. Something I have seen around since you came here". He led a leaping Tobi outside the perimeters where 2 out of the five gorillas lay dead. "The others are wounded too. But they escaped" he explained.
"Thanks for your quick intervention", Benita said, examining the dead creatures with her eyes.
Tobi looked at the elderly man, wearily. Was it possible he knew about Stelyka? Because she was the only evil that would use animals to attack him. "We went to your camp", he said instead. "That is why we are just coming. We met only your daughter."
"Oh! Fatima" The man said with pride. "If I know you are coming, I would have stayed back".
"Its ok. You had to do your job. But will tomorrow afternoon be a good time to meet you at home?"
The front door of the house opened, distracting them. Timothy came out, rubbing his eyes. It seemed like he had just woken up from sleep.
"Oh! Timo". Benita left the men and went to the little boy. They had left him all by himself for too long. And she was only grateful he was ok.
The elderly man looked at the boy for a while and then back to Tobi, "tomorrow afternoon will be fine. We have a lot to talk about".
To be continued....
©Karo Oforofuo. March 2017
Note: If you want to be among the first readers to be notified when updates are made on the blog, add me up on whatsapp. 08131014028 (Whatsapp only, please). Add me up and send me a message. I'll add you to my broadcast list and you will get the link to each update as soon as they are posted. If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, what are you waiting for? Oya, hit the sign up button at either sides of the blog page and do the needful. A short romance novella awaits you after you do.
Thanks for reading. Please drop your comments, like and share with your friends. Cheers!