The Imasogie’s gathered at a corner outside the Emergency room, speaking in hush tones. Osemudiamen placed a hand around his wife’s shoulders. She had not stopped crying since they got to the hospital. Osagie and Osaze assured her that the family doctor would soon come to see them with good news. It didn’t alleviate her fears. She was sad that something terrible had happened to her first son and his wife and child. He was the pillar of support in the family.
The Ayenkegbes sat on a long bench outside the Emergency room. They arrived forty-five minutes ago. Adesua and her daughter had been rushed into the ER. They hoped and prayed that both of them would be all right. Ojemare glanced at his in-laws from afar and hissed. He was still angry with them for the way they left his daughter back at the house. What if no one else was around?
The family doctor came out quickly and glanced around. He beckoned at Ojemare and Osemudiamen. They walked briskly to meet the doctor.
“How is my son?” Osemudiamen’s anxious gaze rested on the doctor’s stressed ones.
“How is my daughter, her child and the pregnancy?” Ojemare was eager for news.
The doctor raised a hand. They fell silent and waited for him to speak.
“Efosa was brought in here dead. There was nothing we could have done for him.”
Ojemare’s jaw dropped in shock. Osemudiamen placed both hands on his head.
“We discovered that Adesua and Edua had been poisoned.”
“Poisoned?” Ojemare repeated in disbelief. Who could have tried to harm them?
“We have been able to flush the toxic substance out of their systems, but, the twins didn’t make it.”
“Oh my God!” Ojemare placed both hands on his head.
“Adesua is recuperating, so is her daughter. You will be able to see them once they have been transferred to the ward.”
Osemudiamen walked away and returned to his family who were looking at him, eager for news.
“Thank you doctor,” Ojemare pressed his lips together.
“Stay strong sir,” the doctor patted him on the back and went back into the emergency room.
Osasu and her younger daughters rushed to his side.
“Adesua and Edua are going to be all right,” Ojemare informed them.
Osasu sighed with relief. She had been so worried.
“What about the pregnancy?” Ehinomen looked up at her father.
He swallowed hard and looked back at her, “They… they didn’t make it.”
“What?!” Osedebamen cried out.
“What about Efosa?” Osasu held her husband’s hand, dreading the news.
He sighed loudly, “He didn’t make it either.”
They all heard a shrill. They turned and saw Omoye weeping and screaming in anguish. Her husband and sons tried to hold and comfort her, but, she resisted them.
Five days later, Adesua and Edua were discharged from the hospital. Her father came to pick them up. Seated at the back seat of the car with her daughter, the events of the last few days ran through her mind. It was hard to comprehend the fact that her husband was gone. Just like that. The family doctor said it was food poison. They were all poisoned. How did the poison get into their system? The last thing she took that day before they all ended up at the hospital was the wine offered by her late husband’s brothers. She remembered how her daughter pleaded to have a drink. She recollected that her mother didn’t even allow her to finish the wine in her glass. She lost her husband and her unborn twins as a result of the poison in the wine. She and her daughter almost died too, but, they survived.
Several nagging thoughts made her restless. What if her late husband’s brothers connived to wipe them out? What if they gave them poisoned wine to drink? What if her in-laws were responsible for the death of her husband? What if…? Her father’s voice brought her out of her reverie. She heard him talking about the burial ceremony. Her in-laws had returned to Edo state to prepare for the bury and she was expected to join them that weekend.
The tears that gathered in her eyes began to spill. The love of her life was going to be buried in a couple of days. How was she going to live without him? How was she supposed to raise their daughter alone? She never expected to be a widow at a young age. She was just thirty-five!
Ojemare viewed his daughter and grand-daughter through the mirror. His heart ached for them. He wished he could take their pains away. He thanked God for sparing their lives, but, he wasn’t sure how his daughter was going to cope. She got married at a very young age. Her late husband was the only man she knew and had been with for a decade. He prayed to God to give her the peace and wisdom to move on.
The death of his son-in-law remained a mystery and he had been consumed with the feeling that it wasn’t a natural death. How come it was only the couple and their daughter that got poisoned that day? After all, they all ate the same food. He believed that someone or some people were responsible for the what happened. It was possible that they wanted to wipe them all out, but God preserved the life of his daughter and grand-daughter. He prayed to God to keep them safe from any danger that might come their way again.
Four weeks after the burial ceremony of her late husband, Adesua returned to Abuja with her daughter, Edua. They got down from the cab they boarded at the airport and the driver helped them to place their bags beside the big white gate. She was relieved to home. The burial period had been very depressing for her. She planned to plunge into work and divert all her attention to her thriving clothing shops. She believed it would help her not to think about her loss.
“Mum, why has the guard refused to open the gate?” Edua glanced at her mother. She was eager to go into her home, shower and stay in bed till dinner time.
“I hope he isn’t sleeping,” Adesua hit the gate again.
They heard the sound of metal. An average height brown skin muscular man in red and white uniform stepped out. Mother and daughter exchanged glances. They did not recognize him.
“Yes, can I help you?”
They were surprised that he spoke fluently. Their security guard could hardly express himself in simple English, but, he was efficient with his job.
Adesua cleared her throat, “I live here.”
The man smiled, “You must be Mrs. Adesua Imasogie.”
She smiled, thankful that he knew her name, “Yes.”
“My boss has been expecting you.”
She raised an eyebrow.
He went in and returned with a big brown envelope. “My boss bought this house and everything in it, including the cars from Mr. Osaze and Mr. Osagie.”
Her brown eyes grew wide in shock, “What?! They have no right! This is my husband’s house. Everything in it is mine. The cars, the furniture, everything!” the thought of what her late husband’s brothers had done made her boil with anger.
The security guard kept on smiling, “Well, they gave my boss the original papers of the house, the receipts of every furniture and electronics in the house, the cars papers, everything.”
Adesua placed her hands on her head. How did they get their dirty hands on her husband’s documents? She remembered that Efosa kept everything important in a suitcase in their bedroom. Did they ransack their house? Why would they do such a thing? When did they even have the time to turn her house upside down? She thought her in-laws were in Edo state.
“Madam, your clothes have been neatly packed into some bags, your daughter’s things too,” the man went in and returned with three large bags. He dragged them out and gave the stunned woman the brown envelope.
Adesua opened the envelope and found her international passport, driver’s license, credentials and some other personal documents.
“Have a good day ma,” he stepped back into the building.
He halted and looked at her.
“Can I speak with your boss?”
He began to shake his head.
“Please… the people that sold this house to him, they had no right. They are not even the legal owners.”
The guard shrugged, “There is nothing we can do. They gave us the original papers of everything. I am sorry,” he closed the gate.
Adesua turned to her tired looking daughter.
“Mummy what is going on?”
She scratched a spot on her head and turned her gaze down the street. She felt a sudden throbbing on her forehead. They sold her house, her cars, her everything! Where did they expect she and her daughter to live? She opened her hand-bag and brought out her iPhone. She dialed her father-in-law’s number and waited as the phone rang.
“Adesua is that you?”
“Are you back in Abuja?”
“How was your journey?”
She rolled her eyes, “Sir, I am being barred from entering my husband’s house.”
“Oh… oh… didn’t they tell you?”
Her brows came together in a frown. “Tell me what?”
“Osaze and Osagie have taken over their elder brother’s properties.”
“The houses, the cars, the transport business, even your shops.”
“My what?!” her vision became blurred, “Sir… sir, they had no right whatsoever to touch my husband’s things, they had…”
“They had every right.”
His statement silenced her.
“Efosa is their brother.”
“I am his wife.”
“You were his wife. He is gone now.”
Tears spilled all over her face, “Sir, this is not fair.”
“You have a girl child. She is not entitled to any inheritance. You are no longer an Imasogie. You can go ahead and re-marry if you want. You are still young.”
“Sir, Edua is an Imasogie.”
“Yes, yes… but, she is a girl.”
“This is crazy. Where are we supposed to go?”
“You have a family, don’t you?” the phone went dead.
“Ah! Jesus…” she paced for a while, then called her husband’s lawyer.
Edua sat on one of the bags and watched her mother. The woman was crying and acting as if she had literally gone loco. She hoped everything was fine. She needed a bath and she was beginning to feel hungry.
“Mrs. Imasogie, I am so sorry, please accept my condolence.”
“Barrister, my in-laws are making my life miserable.”
She heard him sigh heavily.
“Madam, your husband didn’t write a will, there is little or nothing that can be done.”
“Oh my God…” she sank to her knees. How was he supposed to write a will? No one wishes to die unexpectedly.
“Even if we take them to court, we cannot win.”
“Barrister, they have taken over everything.”
“I am so sorry. There is nothing we can do.”
“Jesus…” she lamented.
“You could go to the bank. I believe that you are his next of kin. Everything in his accounts will be transferred to you, that is if his
brothers have not used his ATM cards to clean him out already.”
Adesua began to weep. Our situation was hopeless. What was she supposed to do now?
“Take care madam. When there is life, there is hope.”
She cut the call and called her father.
“Hello, Adesua, have you arrived?”
“Are you crying?”
“Daddy, they took everything. Efosa’s brothers took everything. His family say that because I have a girl child, my daughter is
entitled to nothing. Can you believe them?”
“Daddy, I am so confused right now.”
“Go back to the airport and come home.”
She began to shake her head.
“Come back to Edo. You can start afresh right here in Benin city.”
“Let me sleep over it,” she cut the call. She wasn’t ready to go back to her place of birth. She was born in Benin, she schooled in
Benin, Primary, Secondary and tertiary education. She met her late husband while serving in Abuja. She wasn’t ready to go back to that city.
“Mummy, I am hungry.”
She glanced back at the girl and sighed heavily. “There is a can of malt and a pack of chips in that yellow bag,” she pointed at the stack of bags by the gate.
Edua followed her mother’s gaze and reached out for the bag. She found a can of malt, a pack of chips and three bar of chocolate. She pounced on the chocolate first, before descending on the chips.
Adesua dialed the number of one of her close friends. They needed a place to spend the night. She wasn’t ready to return to Benin, she doubted if she wanted to sleep in a hotel either. She needed all the money she had left in her accounts to sort things out.
“Adeusa! When did you get back? I have been trying your lines like forever.”
“Friendship mi… it’s a long story.”
“How did it go?”
“Can we crash in your place tonight, till I can sort things out, just for a few days?”
“Em… what happened to your place?”
“I will explain when we meet.”
“Give me a moment to talk to my husband. I will call you back.”
“Okay dearest,” she sighed with relief and cut the call. Bukola was one of her very good friend. They served together, got married
the same year and their friendship had seen a lot of joys and sadness. They were always there for each other.
Edua emptied the can and stared at her mother. She gathered that they were not stepping a foot into their house that day. Where were they going to go? Since her father passed on, everything had changed. It was hard to believe that she won’t see her dad ever again, until she joined him in heaven. She sighed heavily. Her back ached terribly.
Adesua met her daughter’s worn-out stare. She glanced at her phone and decided to call her friend back. She dialed the number, but, the operator informed her that the line was switched off. She dialed the number again and got the same message. Her heart missed a beat. Did Bukola switch off her phone internationally? She decided to dial her other line. It was also switched off. Tears burned in her red eyes. Her friend abandoned her in her time of need. Why would she do such a thing? What was wrong with everybody?
She picked up her phone and logged into the Uber app. She was going back to the airport that evening. She hoped they would be able to get a flight to Lagos that night. She had been in Lagos a few times. She had several business associates in the city. She believed that she and her daughter could start afresh there. It was a waste of time staying back in Abuja. If her closest friend could turn against her, no-one else would give her the help she desperately needed.
How was she going to take care of herself and her daughter? She got married immediately after her service year and got pregnant after their honeymoon. She hasn’t worked a day in her life. What was she going to do? It was her husband who opened the clothing shops for her. He was the one who employed the sales girls, the accountant and every other staff she had. He did practically everything for her. How was she going to re-start her business on her own? It was wiser to return to Benin and allow her parents to take care of them, till she could get back on her feet, but she loathed the city. It was too local for her present status.
Forty-three minutes later, a black saloon car stopped beside the big white gate.
“Edua, let’s go.”
“Back to the airport, get your bags,” she started to drag their luggage towards the car.
The driver got down, opened the boot and helped them.