"Timothy what happened? Why did you do this?" Tobi was pissed. Anger coursed through his veins. The impromptu feeling to spank Timothy on his behind was almost irresistible. How could he have done something like this? And if he wasn't really responsible, then who was?
Tobi was as confused as he was angry. The gorilla incident had quickly receded to the background as there was suddenly a more pressing matter at hand.
It was only about 30 minutes ago the Hausa men left. Before going on his way, the elderly one had turned to Tobi, smirking.
"It was a very stupid thing you did".
Tobi frowned, "I don't understand. What stupid thing?"
"Throwing yourself and your wife through the gate like that. The gorillas would have been upon you both".
Tobi sighed and smiled wearily. Calling Benita his wife gave him a warm feeling. He actually wanted her to be just that. But his fear of Stelyka made him put the thought out of his mind, else she got more angry. However, saying his action was stupid made him feel even more stupid. "Well, it felt like a perfect idea at the time. At least it gave you a clear view to shoot".
"Yes", the man agreed. He looked up at where Benita stood with Timothy, patting his head lovingly and conversing in low tones. He looked back at Tobi, "I won't stop thinking about what would have happened if my boys and I didn't show up". Tobi smiled. The man smiled back, "don't forget to see me tomorrow morning. Its very important". He left to join the other two who were already some distance into the forest. They disappeared into the thicket before Tobi limped back into the premises and locked the gate.
He limped to join Benita and Timothy in front of the house. Timothy greeted and Tobi answered. "Did you sleep well?" He asked afterwards.
"Yes", Timothy replied, yawning some more, "but when I woke up, I didn't see you", he complained.
"I'm sorry about that, my prince", he managed to kneel on one leg, before pulling Timothy into his embrace. "I promise I won't leave you alone for so long again".
"For so long? That means you'll leave me again?"
"No. I won't", Tobi promised, looking up at Benita, guilt stricken because Timothy tightened his arms around his father's neck. A sign he was pleased with the new answer.
The duo went on to talk about other things sons and fathers talk about. Benita smiled at the scene playing out before her. She was just glad no one got into the house to hurt Timothy before they arrived, and Tobi was ok, save for the injury in his leg. Even as he was on one knee, she could tell he wasn't comfortable. His leg was definitely hurting.
She looked at the balm the elderly man had given her. If it could really heal as fast as the man made her believe, then Tobi needed it, and urgently too. The faster the wound healed, the better. But first, she had to prepare dinner and then boil water for their bath. Only afterwards would she apply the balm to Tobi's leg wound.
Leaving father and son to enjoy their moment, Benita stepped into the house. Night was fast approaching and so the house was dimly lit. Benita moved to put on the lamp so she could head for the kitchen, not forgetting she still had to send an email to the prayer team. She was still a little shaken up by the gorillas and the chase they we're given. Not for the last time, in her heart, she thanked God for the timely intervention of the Hausa men.
However, after putting on the lamp, her sudden outburst was louder than she expected and it caught Tobi's ears. Since Stelyka, he had learnt to be vigilant and respond even to the slightest distress call. Wondering what the matter was, Tobi quickly carried little Timothy over his shoulders and rushed in. He put Timothy down and walked up behind a still surprised Benita. He didn't want Timothy seeing anything terrible. He had to confirm what it was first.
"What is it, Beni?" He asked. Covering the distance between them. His hands gripped her shoulders and forced her around to look at him, "what?" He asked again.
"That" she pointed sideways to the floor, some distance away from where they stood. The broken pieces of five bottles once containing holy water lay scattered on the floor. They looked like they were smashed, as their broken pieces lay all over the place. Most of the water that escaped had already dried up.
Tobi's heart beat suddenly picked pace. He frowned, trying to understand what had gone down while they were away. He turned to the little boy. Timothy was close by, as he had obviously followed behind. "What happened?" Tobi asked him.
Timothy said nothing. He stood rooted in one spot, visibly shaking and guilt striken. Nothing was lost on Tobi as he looked at the child. "What did you do, Timothy!?" He yelled this time
"It...it was.... a mistake", the little boy looked frightened. He stepped backwards, fearing that if he didn't, Tobi would hit him.
"Did your mother visit you again?" Benita asked, calmly. The boy was already shaken by Tobi's outburst. More yelling wasn't going to do him any good
"So why did you bring out the bottles in the first place?"
"I didn't want to break it", he was almost in tears. "I was only playing with them because there was no body for me to play with. Th..hey.... fell down". He finished with a stammer.
Benita sighed, thankful in her heart that was all. "Its ok", she moved to pet him, drawing him against her abdomen and rubbing his head,"I'll clean it up".
"It is not ok", Tobi countered, looking at the smashed bottles. He looked back at Timothy. "I'm sorry, I yelled at you", he pulled him away from Benita to himself, patting his head, "but please, tell me the truth. Did your mom visit again?" Timothy shook his head. "Ok then", Tobi swallowed. "Its ok". But in his heart, it wasn't ok. He was sure Timothy was scared. Stelyka must have threatened the little boy after warning him not to tell anyone about her visit. Who else would smash bottles of holy water on the ground?
"I'll clean up", Benita offered again.
"No. I'll do it", Tobi insisted. "You just focus on dinner".
While Benita went to the kitchen to cook, Tobi carried Timothy to one of the spare rooms where his toys were kept.
"In case you ever need to play with your toys, just come in here. Ok?"
"Yes daddy", Timothy replied, having overcome the fear that gripped him earlier.
"You just stay here and play. You can also play in the passage. After I'm done cleaning the sitting room, you can come over with your toys. I don't want those bottles piercing your feet"
Timothy nodded, before reaching for his toy car to play with. "Daddy", he called, as Tobi started for the door.
Tobi stopped and looked back, "yes son?"
"I'm sorry about the bottles".
Tobi smiled. "I know. You didn't do it on purpose". He ruffled the little boy's head lovingly before peaking his cheeks and then heading out
Tobi bent over the broken pieces of the bottles and studied them. He had been on it for over 20 minutes. In as much as he wanted to be angry, Timothy was just a little boy. Besides, he was also a victim of Stelyka's rude and vicious schemes. He refused to believe the bottles fell from Timothy's hands. Thanks to his many years glued to detective stories and how forensic experts uncovered deliberate assaults on victims. Still bent over the broken bottles, he knew exactly what to look out for. As his eyes and hands worked, Tobi had it at the back of his head that they were five bottles short on holy water. Well, he was glad it was only that much. If it got exhausted, he was going to have to sneak into town to get more.
Having spent several more minutes examining the shattered bottles, he found nothing. Tobi sighed. He went into the kitchen where Benita was busy preparing dinner.
"How is he?" She asked, looking up from the onions she was chopping.
"Good. He is playing with his toys. I didn't mean to frighten him, but I still refuse to believe that those bottles fell from his hand. The incident looks deliberate to me. Someone smashed them on purpose".
His words had an effect on Benita. She stopped chopping the onions,
"You think his mother came?"
"I think so. I've done a run back in my head over and over again. I didn't close the barbwire gate before we left. Stelyka may have found a way to cross into the premises".
"I doubt that"
"Well, I don't", he sighed. "I'll just sweep out the mess. The water didn't go to waste. At least it poured in the sitting room".
Benita nodded in agreement
Tobi picked up the broom and parker. He left. As soon as he was out the door, Benita picked up her phone from the table and continued with the message she had been typing, before she heard feet approaching the kitchen. She knew it was Tobi. And if he had seen her with the phone, he would have asked what she was doing, and then, maybe snatch her phone to have a look himself.
After writing, she read it all over, made a few corrections before hitting the send button. The faster the message went, the better. Benita thanked God that there was someone whose sole job was to check the email from time to time . Whoever he or she was, she prayed they look into her request and get back to her soonest.
Benita sighed. And not for the last time, she thought about her situation. Hunted by a dead woman called Stelyka. Stelyka. What sort of name was that anyway? She wondered what sort if evil sent lions to rip her apart in her dreams. And then send gorillas in real life to do the job the lions didn't do. Or didn't she hear the eldest of the Hausa men say something wanted to use the gorillas to hurt them?
"Dear God," she closed her eyes, "I'm not without faults. But it doesn't mean I'm any less your child. Please take complete control of this situation. Protect us and send Stelyka away forever. Lock her up wherever she is supposed to be. She shouldn't be allowed in the world of the living again...", she prayed, on and on. Until she said, "amen".
Benita opened her eyes and continued slicing the onions. She had just finished preparing everything she needed for a fresh stew when her phone vibrated on the table where it had been resting. She picked it up and read the message. It was a reply from the prayer team's email address. It read:
We got your message. Be rest assured we will pray about it. But I must say that our prayers wouldn't be so effective for your case if you do not join us. In. Intercessory prayer, 60% of answers go to the intercessor and only 40% goes to the person we are praying for. That is why we encourage everyone we pray for to also join us in prayer. God's protection go with you child. May the holy spirit see you through this
Mr. Ifeanyi Okeke.
Benita sighed in relief. "Thank God they responded quickly", she said to herself. All that was left was to convince Tobi to join in the prayers. Just as she was mentally mapping out a strategy to get him, she heard Tobi's loud cry from somewhere in the house.
What could that be? She hurried out of the kitchen to the sitting room, then the passage.
"What in God's name is the meaning of this?" She heard Tobi's voice coming from the store room. "How? Just how? Timothy! Timothy!!"
The anger with which he called the boy was enough to frighten any one. Benita rushed in. Timothy emerged from the spare room and followed closely behind.
"What happ...", her question died on her lips when she saw the cause of Tobi's loud cry. Everything in the store room was soaked; from the bag of rice, beans and garri sitting at the corner, to the tubers of yam lying on the ground, as well as the carton on indomie, onions and plantain. The five cartons that each held 20 bottles of holy water Tobi had purchased from a church, lay on the ground, torn in different places. The bottles where on the ground too, smashed. Only three bottles out of a total of 100, remained.
"Oh my God!" Benita's jaws dropped
"Three bottles. That's all we have left", Tobi said without looking back. "It will only serve us for the night. After which, we're on our own", he turned slowly to face Benita. But his eyes fell on Timothy hiding behind her. "Timothy, tell me the truth. What happened here?"
Timothy shook his head, "I don't know daddy".
"When you we're alone this afternoon, you didn't hear sounds of things breaking?'" He frowned.
"No daddy. Nothing happened when I took the bottles I was playing with", he said, "I don't know what happened".
Tobi sighed and looked at Benita, his expression was that of sorrow and great frustration. "By midnight tomorrow, Stelyka will have her way".
Benita knew what he meant. In other words, Stelyka would kill her by the following day. No way. No way would she let it happen. How the witch managed to get in while they we're away and Timothy was deep in sleep, was beyond her. But death? No way. It wasn't going to happen.
"We ... we need... to pray", she swallowed, looking him straight in the eye. "God is all we have now".
Tobi closed his eyes. Benita was right. Prayer had worked for a lot of people. If it didn't work for him in the past, there sure was a reason why. But she believed strongly in prayers, and as things were, that was their only choice. He opened his eyes again and looked at her. She looked, scared, tired and anxious, anticipating his reply.
"We will pray. And I hope to God, we get answers this time".
Benita rushed to hug him . "We will. We will get answers".
It was late at night when they finally bathed, ate and prepared to pray. Timothy already felt dizzy. And when Tobi asked him to go and sleep, he went quietly to his own room, shut the door and lay on the mattress.
"You have to lead", Tobi said to Benita from where he sat across the table, "I won't be able to because I don't know where or how to start".
"Sure. I will. Although I would have preferred that Timothy joins us".
"The boy feels dizzy. He wouldn't be able to keep his eyes open. We can pray for him even if he's not here".
Benita sighed. She didn't agree with that. When she was Timothy's age, even if she felt sleepy, her parents would insist she sleeps on a nearby table while praying. Then they'll also pray for her. But of course,Timothy wasn't her son and she had no right to impose on them what or what not to do. "Ok", she said, "Let's begin".
They starter with series of praise songs and then worship and then praise again. It was almost midnight when they delved into prayers. After prayers, they sat up until 1:00am in the morning, reading the bible.
All the while, Timothy stayed awake on his bed, staring into the darkness around him. Sleep had deserted him as soon as his body touched the mattress.
He heard his father and Benita singing. Then he heard them praying. It was a really long time before their voices ceased. They have gone to sleep. He thought. He turned on his side then, closed his eyes and went to sleep.
To be continued....