“Mama, that is not yours to say .”
I turn round to see Edi leaning against the door, looking sad. The room is dimly lit with the curtains drawn over the windows. But i can still make out the features of his face. The face i had memorized over the years.
“Kokoma, let’s talk.”
I give mama Edichie a kiss on her cheek before leaving. I was already thinking up what excuse i would give my boss to allow me take my leave now. These guys were in no shape to take adequate care of the poor woman. And now that Tafo is pregnant, who knows what else she can do apart from eat and sleep?
I sit on a single sofa across Edi who is finding it difficult to sit or stand still.
“Please stop pacing.” I keep playing candy crush on my phone. I notice when he eventually stops, then i look up. Whatever he has to say can have no bearing on my life anymore at this point.
“I am sorry Koko. You probably should have every reason to be angry at me and even at our families. And Tafo… She was forced into this too.”
I snicker. “No one is forced to love.”
“And who says we love each other? Well, maybe i did love her when we were younger. But, i did not intend to marry her. We had to put up the pretense.”
“Why? What family business? Who owes who money? And i thought arranged marriages for business purposes were a thing of the past. Besides, how does telling me all these now change anything?”
“The whole business thing is complicated. I don’t think i understand it fully either. But, i owe you the truth. We all do. It seems you are the only one left out of the loop.”
“He knew all along.”
Wow. Betrayal at its peak. So all those times i thought he got me and understood my pain; he was just consoling me from the inevitable. And he told me nothing.
“What is the deal between Ovie and Tafo?”
“Why do you think it took so long before i proposed to Tafo? While we were dating, the plan was to get her pregnant before the wedding. Don’t ask me why… One of those cultural things.”
I roll my eyes. This is ridiculous. How backward could our parents be really?
“We did tests which were mostly inconclusive for me, neither here nor there. She was certified okay. She was already teasing me about getting pregnant for someone else even before we got married.”
“But, Ovie??? That guy is… Loose. I don’t even believe he is married. How is a ‘he-goat’ on heat tied down to one ‘wife’?”
“She always loved Ovie. You know what happened between them in SS3, right? She told me, bold-faced.”
“You are bursting my head right now Mr. Edichie junior. These things sound far fetched. Tafo was the one always making jokes at Ovie and his ways. So, you guys got married and she kept her affair with Ovie and you have been fine with it?”
“When a man cannot score just one goal in all his football career, who is he to raise his voice?”
This does not sound like the strong Edward Edichie. What broke him?
“Edi, your phone… It’s ringing.”
I listen to his side of the phone call and i know something bad has happened. Whatever it is, it involves Ovie. Talk of the devil.
“That was someone from Ovie’s house, She needs me to come pick up Tafo.”
I make to stand up but his next words stop me. “He is dead.”
Someone wake me up. How is everything happening so fast? I am discovering weird things about my family and friends. And one of them is suddenly now… dead?
“Oh my God! What happened to him? Hope Tafo is fine?”
“Apparently, he had been sick for a while. Tafo had been going to see him. I guess that explains the weirdly timed antenatal visits.”
I sit in front while Edi drives. He is quiet. Somehow i think a storm is coming. And i don’t mean the natural one. I reach out to hold his free hand, giving it a brief squeeze. Many wrong things have been allowed to go on for too long. God save us all.
At Ovie’s place, people are loitering around. Many sober and crying faces. Inside the house, some are huddled together, talking in low tones. I scan the faces, looking for Tafo.
“Are you Tafo’s people? She is in the room. She has been crying, refusing to be consoled. We fear she would harm herself or the baby.”
Tafo’s puffy red eyes are enough evidence. I feel sorry for her. A feeling i have never felt before. Strange.
Her wailing picks up volume at Edi’s attempt to make her quiet. I think i should excuse them.
“Edi… Is this how i would die too? Eh? My God!! Ewo Chineke!”
As default, none of us speaks Ibo even though we can.
“Of course not. Please don’t talk like this. You are healthy, you are fine. Don’t cry please.”
She keeps shaking her head side to side, occasionally calling out Ovie.
“I am sorry Edi. This is why we have not been having sex in the past months. I am sorry…”
Now i am confused. She stopped Edi from sleeping with her because Ovie was sick?
“He had HIV.”