It was day break, 9:10AM. Soft breeze blew through the dense forest, even as the rays of the golden sun penetrated it. Benita sat in front of the house watching Tobi. He was busy erecting the last part of the barb wire fence around the house with iron poles. Sweat trickled down his bare chest as he worked. He had been at it since 6:00am that morning, as he was desperate to keep danger at bay. Benita had assisted as she could. So did Timothy. What was left to be done was little and so Tobi had asked them to rest.
Benita's eyes stuck with him like glue, while Timothy rode his bicycle in circles a short distance away. Tobi had remembered to bring along some of his toys so he could be kept busy. To Benita, it was sign Tobi was a great father who satisfied his child's needs. If she had kids with him, she was sure he would take proper care of them too. However, she kept in mind the fact that Stelyka had been part reason for his extra care with the boy. Benita sighed at the thought. Tobi was a good man, no doubt. She only wished he wasn't neck deep in the situation he was in.
At midnight, after Timothy had obeyed Tobi's instruction and left the room, she pushed Tobi away from her and landed a hot slap on his cheek then proceeded to call him all sort of names. Tobi looked stunned, as he just couldn't understand the reason for the sudden violence and abuse. It was when she started to question him about his wife and the fact that he had a son, that he understood her rage. She thought he was a married man cheating on his wife with her.
"If you calm down, I will explain. I will tell you everything", he promised.
"Explain what, really?" She attacked, "That your wife is a bad woman hence the need to cheat on her? Keep that stupid excuse to yourself. You have a wife you have a son and still you dated me. Like that isn't bad enough, you kidnap me and bring me to this grave yard. What sort of a nutcase are you?"
"I'm not married. The boy is not even my biological son. Will you just keep calm and let me explain things?"
His words hit her. He wasn't married, and the boy wasn't really his? It took her a while, but she finally relaxed. Then he led her out of the room to the plastic table and chair in the sitting room. He sat her down and told her everything. At first she was shocked, and then fear followed. If everything Tobi had said was true, then she was just harassed by an evil spirit. She had thought that was what it was, but she wasn't sure. However, after Tobi's story, she was even more confused.
"You're lying", she countered him, refusing to believe. "You're just using a pity story as a cover up your crime. You want me feeling sorry for you".
"Its the truth." Timothy said from where he had been eavesdropping on their conversation. "My daddy has told me everything. And I believe him. My mummy used to tell me too".
Tobi frowned at him, "I asked you to go to your room", he reminded the boy.
"But I can't go to my room alone. Mummy will come and visit me and I don't want her to", he grumbled.
His words had a strong effect on Tobi. He stood up and quickly walked over to Timothy. "She's still visiting you?"
"Yes" he nodded, childishly
"Why didn't you tell me?" Tobi queried, kneeling on one leg.
"She said I shouldn't tell you. She said she'll make you go away and leave me if I tell you."
"Don't listen to her", Tobi said, hugging him. "I won't leave you, you hear me?"
"Good boy. Now come with me. You need to drink from the holy water before going to bed. You'll sleep in my room. She wouldn't touch you there". He walked out of the sitting room, into the passage, holding Tobi's hand and leaving an almost traumatized Benita by herself. She sat there alone, thinking hard and long about everything.
So the child wasn't his. Neither was he married or in a romantic relationship with the boy's mother. He had risked his business and his own life when he chose to bring her to safety. She looked at the phone on the table. It was hers. Tobi had left it there. It showed a hundred missed calls from family and friends. Tobi had said he couldn't bring himself to answer the phone as he did not know what to tell them. Funny, how she thought he must had already requested for his ransom. Another call came in then, she knew she had to pick the call so as to quell their fears and anxiety. After answering that, she proceeded to call her parents and then Helen.
"How can you let yourself be whisked away on a vacation like that? And you didn't call to tell us anything. We've been worried sick about you", Helen fired after she had called and told a lie the best she could - Tobi had whisked her away on a surprise vacation. Simple.
"I'm sorry Helen", she apologized, "I never should have run off like that and even abandoned my phone in our hotel room. I'm so sorry. Who is taking care of you now?"
"No one. I'm all alone. Thanks to you".
"Oh dear. I'm so sorry".
"I bet you are. Have you called your parents? They've been worried sick".
"Yes. I called them just before I called you".
"Ok. They must feel relieved now. So when are you coming back?"
Benita paused. She didn't know if she would survive, let alone go back. But of course, she couldn't tell Helen that. Her best friend wouldn't understand what she was saying. "Helen, I really don't know yet".
"You don't? You better get back here first thing tomorrow morning. Do I have to remind you that we have 2 big events to organize this weekend?"
"You don't have to, Helen. Just please choose our best hands, share them in two groups and let each group manage each event. If they do it well, they get a raise". Helen's side of the line was quiet. "Hello, Helen? Are you there?"
"I am. But I'm wondering who I am speaking to. The Benita I know wouldn't miss organizing these two events for anything in the world. What has gone into your head? Why the carefree attitude?"
"Its not a care free attitude, Helen. I'm just not going to be able to make it".
"Hmmmm... ok. Greet Tobi for me. Tell him he's doing a good job of pissing me off".
Benita smiled then. It was her first smiles since the unfortunate incident. At that moment, she was happy to have Helen as her best friend. "I will tell him", she replied, "you stay well until I get back, ok?"
"I'll try. Hope I don't put to bed before you show up?"
"Naaaa... it won't happen", she laughed.
"Ok then. I'm expecting you soon. Take care of yourself sweetheart".
"I will. Good night Helen".
"Good night Benita".
It was a while before the line went off. Benita sighed as she dropped the phone carelessly on the table. She knew how hard she worked to get the CEOs of the two companies to endorse her as their company event planner. If any thing went wrong, she knew she was done for. All thanks to Tobi and Stelyka. She sighed, using one hand to rub away the ache from her forehead.
"I'm sorry you had to lie to your best friend" Tobi said from the door way where he had been watching her and listening to their conversation.
Benita looked up at him. Despite everything he still looked very handsome. Always having eyes for nice things, she actually wanted to tell him he was handsome. "Is Timothy asleep?" She asked instead.
"Yes." He sighed and moved away from the door, towards the table. He took the empty seat opposite hers. "It took a while to get him to sleep. He is scared".
She swallowed. Timothy wasn't his son, but he cared for him anyway. And to think he had been through a lot just because of that little boy's mother. "He has every right to be scared. We all do".
Tobi eyed her from where he sat, taking in her appearance. Her weavon hung over her shoulders. Beads of perspiration dotted her forehead. Even with the open window, the house was hot. The night air seemed to have become still. Benita looked a little less shaken, compared to earlier when Stelyka had visited her and when he had told her his story. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this mess", He said. "If I could rewind the hands of time, I would".
"And when you rewind it, what will happen?" She asked
"I wouldn't walk with you on the beach side, that first day we met. And I wouldn't exchange contact details with you. We will end up not falling heads over heels for each other and you will be safe, free to live your life as you want".
"And while I'm safe you'll continue battling that evil woman?"
"Yes. I guess it is my curse"
"It is not your curse. You should have prayed seriously about this" she scolded him. "Instead you let her ruine your life"
"You think I haven't prayed?" He fired back, "I have. God just doesn't answer prayers any more".
"That is a lie. It all depends on how you handled it"
"Look. I don't want arguments. Ok? I'm sorry you're tied up in this mess". He picked up his book of evil omens. It was a good thing he printed it out in hardcopy. How else would he have been able to read it without first needing to find his phone?
"Even your book of omens instructs you to use holy water. And you still think God doesn't answer prayers? Good night Tobi. I hope I can sleep in your room too with Timothy. I can't go back to mine".
"Sure." He replied. "I'll take you to it".
It was his room she slept. They all slept on the same bed with Timothy in the middle. She was awake half the time. Tobi was no different. He shuttled between reading the book of omens and the bible. Benita knew he was confused. He had been through a lot. She watched him silently until she closed her eyes and said a silent prayers before finally drifting off to sleep.
The wind howled as it blew restlessly across the open grassland. Benita was alone in the field, save for two cows at her far left, grazing on the low dry grasses. The sky was covered by dark clouds and the wind seemed to be increasing in strength. She turned to leave the field but could not. Her feet were stuck to the ground. She was curious as to why she was stuck when she heard it. The same feminine voice that visited her window at midnight.
"You're exactly where I want you now", It said "Outside".
Fear griped Benita. She made another attempt to run out of the field. Still, she couldn't move. While she struggled to move her feet, the voice came again.
"Look up darling, and see the gift I have for you".
Benita stopped what she was doing and looked up. Her heart nearly jumped out of her mouth as she watched in horror, five huge lions devouring the cows that had been feeding quietly. After they had their fill, they turned to face her. Slowly, they started in her direction and picked up the pace as they progressed.
"Hahahahahahhahaha....." Stelyka laughed viciously.
Benita bent low and grabbed her legs, trying to move them. But they would not move. The lions were just a stone throw from her when she looked up again. Ignoring the deafening sound of Stelyka's laugher, Benita closed her eyes and began to pray rapidly. Her words were incoherent.
A light tap on the leg woke her up. It was Timothy. He smiled broadly when she jerked out of sleep and quickly sat up, panting. It was after a while that she turned to look at him.
"Good morning aunty", he greeted, lying beside her on the mattress.
"Good morning Timothy", she managed a smile, before briefly looking over at Tobi's side. It was empty.
"You were having a bad dream." He said, still looking at her, as if wanting to ensure she was ok.
"Yes, I was." She admitted.
"I knew it! You have been turning and saying all sort of things. I couldn't even understand you."
"Oh, sorry." She felt embarrassed. "I hope what I was saying didn't disturb your sleep?"
"No. It didn't. I have been awake ever since dad woke up. "
"Ok. That's good. So where is your father?"
"Outside. He is working on a barbed wire fence. He says it will help keep my mom away".
Benita sighed. His mom. Her mind drifted to the dream she awoke from. Timothy's mom was one hell of a woman who was obviously bent on killing her. Who would have thought an evil woman could have a great kid like Timothy? It was unfortunate things were happening the way they were. She'd have loved to adopt Timothy as her own and care for him. He was smart, intelligent and lively. But of course, not when his mother was gunning for her head. Tobi wasn't helping issues either. If only he would trust God more and pray. Now what was he doing, setting up a barbed wire fence. Who did a barb wire fence ever really save? She was sure he got the stupid idea from the book of omens.
"Is that what the book of evil omens told him to do?" She asked.
"I don't know." Timothy replied, playfully rolling on to his father's side, "but my dad is always right", he grinned at her. Benita couldn't help but smile at his childish innocence. It was obvious he adored his father, even though they were not flesh and blood.
"Let's go and join your father outside. We can lend him a hand instead of staying cooked up here. What say you?".
"Yes!" Timothy quickly sat up and got off the mattress. "I wanted to help him but he said I must stay with you and watch over you. He doesn't want my mother to come and hurt you", he finished.
"And you did a great job of protecting me", she smiled and patted his head. If he hadn't tapped her up when he did, she couldn't tell what would have become of her. Somehow, Benita believed that whatever happened in the dream was spiritual and would eventually happen in real life. Stelyka or whatever her name was, would really have to fight harder to kill her. For she was going to take prayers seriously, waking, sleeping, eating, bathing etc. And even as they walked out of the room, she silently prayed.
They got out and helped with the fence as they could. In between, she had joined Tobi in the kitchen to prepare breakfast - boiled yams and fried eggs. After eating, work had resumed. She quietly hoped the fence would be ready soon, then they would freshen up and she would have a long talk with Tobi. She didn't think that hiding in the forest was the solution to their problems. They needed to reach out for help.
To be continued. ..
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