All through the almost two hours spent at the orphanage, Chimele and Osi were separated. However, irrespective of where she was, Osi got the idea that Chimele was loved by these people. The orphanage had children from the ages. Babies, some weeks old up until teenagers. She spent a considerable amount of time with the young growing girls, her heart tearing up at their funny questions and laughing faces despite their obvious need.
“So, are you, Uncle ‘Mele’s girlfriend?” one eight year old asked. Osi smiled. “No, darling. I’m not. We’re just friends, very good friends.” “but you like him?” “Sarah!” another girl screamed. “How can you ask such a question? Aunty Osi, please don’t mind her. That’s how she is. Always curious.” The girl apologizing looked some two years older than Sarah. A picture of the two girls on her bridal train flashed through her mind. As quickly as it came, it left. She smiled at the girls who were now going back and forth. Finally, she answered them, “yes, I like him. Very much.” This answer calmed the girls and had them smiling sheepishly as she went on to tell them stories of some of the passengers she met as an air hostess. They were in this very happy state for over thirty minutes before Chimele came looking for her.
“Osi?” He called, knocking on the door. Slowly, he opened the door and poked his head into the room. ”Hi girls…“ He greeted, standing at the door. “Uncle ‘mele…” Sarah shouted as she ran to hug him. “Hi Sarah… How are you?” “Fine, sir.” “Please may I take Aunty Osi home? It is getting late.” “Well, will you bring her back? We were enjoying her stories” she asked. “Well,…” He looked at Osi who was smiling widely. “You have to ask her.” Sarah walked to Osi’s side. “Aunty Osi, will you come back?” Osi used both her palms to cup Sarah’s cheeks. “Yes, dear. I will.” She replied with a smile. That said, she stood up and walked to the door of the room.
“Bye, girls…” “Bye…”
The orphanage was better than she’s expected. Apparently, donations from patrons enabled them to provide for the children. They didn’t have everything but they were managing okay. As they walked out of the six bedroom bungalow, Osi realized that she ahd left her bag in the girls’ room, she told Chimele she would meet him in the car and went back to get it. Meanwhile, the children trooped to the car to get the things Chimele told them he had bought for them.
Osi came out of the girls’ room to an empty hallway. She could hear the happy shrieks of the children. Turning corner into the living room, she almost bumped into someone. “Oh!” Osi said. She looked up and saw that it was an elderly woman. “I’m so sorry ma. I didn’t see you. I hope you are not hurt, ma.” There was a bright smile instead of a frown. This eased Osi a bit. “I am okay, my dear.” She answered, studying the young girl in front of her. “Are you the lady that my Chimele brought?” Her Chimele? Is she his mum? Chimele told me he is an orphan. “You know, Chimele came to me as a very sick baby. I nursed him to health as if he were my own. A couple, very good friends of mine adopted him when he was five years old. It was an open one. So, he always knew he was adopted. When the couple passed away ten years later, he came back to me.”
Osi wondered why the woman was telling her this story whilst standing. She didn’t want to interrupt but she couldn’t allow it. “Ma, are you sure you don’t need to sit?” The woman smiled again. “No, my dear. Let’s walk out instead. I’m sure by now the boot of his car has been emptied. Thank you for caring for an old woman.” Osi’s smile was her answer.
They got to the door and saw that Chimele was surrounded by five teenage boys. He seemed to be giving them a lecture. “The boys love him so much. They hang onto his words. I’m so happy they have him to talk to.” Osi studied the scene before her. The young girls were busy carrying the provisions from the boot of the car but they wisely, left the bag of rice for the boys to attend to. One by one, they brought out beverages, milk, sugar, detergent, noodles, toiletries… He even bought sanitary towels… Osi laughed to herself. I wonder why he didn’t tell me about buying stuff. I would have added to these. In fact, I’m going to ask Nma and Preye for some of their clothes for the girls. Some of the older girls could wear the same dress sizes as her two younger sisters. I might even come with Preye.
Chimele saw the lady he very much liked in deep discussion with the first mother he’d ever known. They were smiling at each other which was good news. It meant things were going well. It was imperative that his mother liked her because while he had gotten full scholarships for his secondary school education, his first degree and masters’, that woman was the person who had been his anchor. She was his nuclear family and since she now ran the orphanage, he had many siblings. His wife to be had to love them else it wouldn’t work. A question from one of the boys called for his attention.
Both women stepped down and walked towards the car. The boys saw the elderly woman and knew it was time to say goodbye. After, they successfully carried out the bag of rice, they said their goodbyes and left. Osi said her goodbye and sat in the car giving Chimele some minutes alone with his mother.
Her dinner, a bowl of vegetable soup very tastefully prepared, lay in front of her barely touched. Her appetite was gone. It had gone for almost three days. She just didn’t feel like eating anymore. Her world was upside down. At work, she went through the motions. Her only saving grace was that there was no training scheduled for that week. How would she have carried out training with this state of mind? By her right elbow which rested on the dining table lay her phone. If she looked, she would see the missed calls. He had been calling non-stop since Sunday. She didn’t know what to do. How did one go about stopping something that hadn’t officially started?
As if on cue, the phone rang, the ring tone of Pharrells’ Happy filling the room and mocking her. Of course, she wasn’t happy. She had no one to talk too. She didn’t want to bug her elder sister but she knew she had to do something about it. HR called her in that afternoon to find out what the matter was. So, Osi knew that it was now a problem. It needed to be fixed even if she didn’t know how. The only viable option was to call him, return one of the almost a hundred missed calls he had left since they parted ways on Sunday. But what do I say? Silent tears rolled down her cheeks. With haste, she picked up her phone and ran to her to room. Was this the God Chimele so passionately talked about? Was this how he operated? Causing happiness only to snatch it away? Hadn’t he done the same thing with her sister, Ada? He had taken Korede away.
Is she not happy with Tunji? A voice asked her. How do you know Korede was the best choice for her?
Is that why you ki- took him away? Osi countered. There was no response. Locking the door behind her, she collapsed on her bed and cried again for what was lost before it had been found. She cried for what could have been. The closed doors did little to hide the body wracking sobs that escaped from her. Her father just coming out of his study heard the crying and hurried in its direction.
He looked at his watch. Preye wasn’t back from school yet. The only person he knew that was at home was his second daughter, Osita. Was she the one crying? He couldn’t imagine what would make her cry so hard. Osi was, still is, the strongest of all his girls. She took after him, barely showing sorrowful emotions. Always keeping bad news hidden or trying to hide it. The only time he had witnessed this type of sorrow from her was… Never. Even after his wife passed away. He didn’t see Osi break down like this.
“Osi…. Osita…” He called as he knocked on the door to her room. Osi chuckled on sarcasm. Even her name mocked her. Ositadinma. For a while she had begun to believe it again. Drying her eyes, she answered. “Yes, sir.” Her voice quavered. “Osi, what’s the problem?” “Nothing, dad. Don’t worry about it.” Her father snorted. What made ladies believe that they could ever get out from under that care of their fathers?
“Open the door, Osi. You can’t tell me there’s nothing wrong when you are busy constructing a dam in your room?” he joked. Osi smiled. Sniffing, she walked up to the door and opened it. When he entered the room, she went back to her seat of the bed and used the back of her hands to dry her face.
Sitting beside her and after some seconds of silence, her father spoke. “So, Osi, what did you say is the problem?” he asked. “I didn’t say, dad. Don’t try and con me into giving you answer.” Her father laughed and she smiled. “At least it was worth a try but really talk to me. I know you aren’t a sharer but you have to talk to someone. I won’t leave your room until that happens.”
Osi sighed and turned to him. She knew he meant his threat. Maybe it was good that she talked to him. He was a medical professional. Perhaps he would know what to tell her to do because she knew for sure that her mind wasn’t calculating anything anymore.
“No! No! No!” This cannot be happening. Why isn’t she answering my phone call? I have left so many missed calls. The only assurance I have that she is alive is her message to me to stop calling her. Osi!!!!! At least tell me what I did wrong. Please!!! In the privacy of his apartment, his heart ripped apart. Could it be that she didn’t like her time at the orphanage? He shook his head. She had been all smiles. What happened then? She hadn’t spoken a word to him throughout their drive home that Sunday. May be I should call mama. She may be able to tell me if she picked something.
He dialled her number and she answered on the first ring. From the tone of his voice, she knew something wasn’t right. “What is it, my son? What happened?” “Mama, that’s why I’m calling. It’s about Osi. Did something happen on Sunday?” he asked, going straight to the point. There was no need to beat about the bush. He needed answers and fast too. “Nothing happened, my son. I just gave her a brief history about the home and our relationship.” Was that all? That couldn’t be what caused all this? She doesn’t like that I am adopted? Chimele shook his head. There was no way the lady he was falling in love with was shallow. “Was that all you talked about? Nothing else?” “Well, yes, Chimele. I told her about us, you and I especially told her how happy I was that you had found someone compatible with you.” Compatible? “Compatible? What do you mean by compatible?” “You know your genotype is AS. I was only happy you had found AA. You remember how worried you were that women would run away from you?” Chimele smiled as he remembered. But why would that information cause her to react th-
Jesus! Please tell me it isn’t what I think it is. It can’t be. “Mama, thank you. I’ll call her and talk to her.” Without waiting for a reply, he ended the call.
Is she AS? God, please don’t let her be.
By OLUCHI Umealu
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