Sunday, 2nd March 2014,
GEORGIE returned home today. The kids – especially Harriet – were so delighted to see him back as safe as he had left. But I was on something else. I noticed that he was putting on the gold ring, and a strong repugnance against it suddenly struck my heart. As I hugged him, I felt something pushing me to hold his finger and pull off the ring, but I kept my knickers on.
“Baba, Tiger came here and threatened me. He said he was going to be my father.” It was Harriet who opened up the conversation about Tiger when Georgie had already sat down in the house. I had not even thought about the approach to take in handling the gridlock. Georgie turned up his eyebrows and cast onto me looks that seemed to beg the question “did you tell the kids about him”? I nodded, as if I had read and understood the facial expression, and remained silent.
He then returned his gaze onto Harriet and asked, “Oh! Did he, my angel?”
“Yes he did. I want you to stop him from threatening us,” replied Harriet.
“Your mum and I will look into it, baby. I will stop him right away,” he forged a reply.
“Please do. And what took you so long to come home?” she asked further.
“I… we had some delicate appointments to handle abroad, baby.” said Georgie, and then he shifted his gaze towards Tony who was seated right next to me. The boy often feels uneasy in the presence of his father. “Come on, my boy. What’s up? Are you alright?” he asked him.
“Um… I’m fine, Baba,” answered Tony.
“Aren’t you happy that I’m back? By the way, I met your school’s head-teacher at the airport. Said something about your performance going down the railroad… .We shall have a small talk about it later.” As he continued to speak, I noticed Tony’s confidence wear down and a feeling of timidity overcome him. “The teachers are disturbed a bit by the fact that you’ve become extremely playful at school these days, yet exams are… .”
“Excuse me, my lord,” I had to stop him. He had just arrived and was fully unaware of the tension that already existed in the house. Adding another one on top of it was indubitably going to make the house too hot for the kids. “Could I please have a secret word with you in our room. Harriet and Tony, please take the cool breeze outside.”
He stood up and we moved to our room right away. He thought I meant I wanted us to have our marriage food and so immediately we entered the room, he bolted the door behind him and began unbuttoning his shirt. “No, stop! Wait a moment, we can do that late. Please,” I stopped him. “I have something else important to say.”
“What? I’ve been out the whole week and you don’t even miss a piece of me?” he asked in a resentful tone.
“I do. I do miss you, but there’re some other more important issues… .”
“More than me, eeh? Like what?”
“See, my lord, let’s not do the gobshite’s stutter , please. There’s already tension in the house. There’s a lot that happened while you were away and it would be unreal to proceed without ironing them out. Please, my lord,” I tried to explain. “Besides, the kids are just out here and whatever you want us to do in their presence should be our own secret, I suppose.”
He looked at me dryly for a moment, and I felt empty, as if I was trying to pull down a giant by mere utterance.
“It is this Tiger. He’s been showing up in this place and threatening the kids and me,” I went on. “Please, I want us to talk extensively about him and other issues that are already blossoming.”
I watched as he buttoned up his shirt and left the room without saying another word. “My lord, please listen to me,” I insisted, following him to the living-room.
“I don’t want to talk about him right now. Prepare my bath.” he said, turning to me, and then he took out his phone from his pocket, sat on the sofa and switched off his attentiveness.
I decided not to push; it was like hitting a nail through a rock. I went straight to the kitchen to warm his bath and prepare him tea. After he had bathed and taken the tea, he took his small briefcase and left the house, as usual.
“Dad, I wanted to talk to you more,” shouted Harriet when she beheld her father matching out.
“Sorry, baby. I have an appointment. I’ll be back for a talk tonight,” he replied and stepped out of the gate.
Ill news comes apace. It was about 11:30AM when he left. An hour later, Harriet came to summon me from the kitchen where I was busy preparing lunch. “Mum, come and see in the news. There’s some unfortunate event that has occurred at Moderncare,” she reported.
“What?” I asked, surprised and completely on pins and needles.
“Come and see. They’ve reported that there’s an attack and fire has been… .” I left her still speaking and rushed to the living-room. A video of flames blazing on the premises of Moderncare and fire extinguishers trying to fight it away filled my large TV screen. “What! Oh my God!” I screamed, strength piping out of my bones. “Oh Pastor Anthony!” I exclaimed again, my breath waning off as I fell down onto the floor, almost afaint.
I could feel my heart beating fast. Tony came up to me and tried to console. “Mama, it’s alright. We’re safe. Father is not hurt,” I heard him say. I lay on the floor for a while, tear gushing out of my eyes, then a little strength visited me and I stood up.
I rushed to my bedroom, opened my wardrobe and threw myself into a clean dress, and then I told Tony to take care of the house and make sure he kept the gate locked till I returned. I had to go and check whether what I had seen on the TV was real.
When I reached the place, dear Jennie, I found people crying heartlessly, moaning for their loved ones. I felt my tears hanging loose again. The fire-fighters had managed to keep the fire down and rescue teams were pulling out bodies from the building. Most of the bodies were covered in black polythene bags. It was a horrible sight to behold.
I walked up to one woman who stood by mystified by the scene that spread out before her and asked, “Excuse me, miss. Would you mind if I asked? How did this come about?”
She looked at me with a tank of displeasure written all over her face and replied, “How do you expect me to know? I’m not the police. I came here a few minutes ago when I heard people screaming and found the building burning. I hear there was an attack by some thugs prior to the incident.”
“Are there any survivors?” I pressed.
“I don’t know just as you too don’t know. I hear most of the bodies have burned beyond recognition, and that just a bunch of people managed to escape. There, ask that journalist.” She pointed at a man who was panning his camera towards our direction.
The journalist stopped and I saw him moving towards us. I turned and walked away, emotionally moved. No, I was not confident enough to appear on a screen, not unless I knew whether Pastor Anthony was dead or not.