There was something off and sinister about Sidney’s home. It has this eerie spooky ambience that engulfed it. Perhaps it was the gothic design of the building, or the bizarre but rare and expensive art collections that littered the interior, the mummified kangaroo head that was nailed to the wall, the ancient styled religious ceramic ceiling that seemed like the remake of d’ Angelo, or maybe the cathedral-size of the building.
The building was situated in one of the top highbrow exclusive plots in Banana Island. Outstretched in lingering kilometers in company of gmelina and flame trees. Their sidewalks were parted in two, each surrounded by decoratively trimmed shrubs.
Their expansive compound was like a mini-orchard. The lawns were neatly mowed. Crickets’ sounds were easily heard in company of raven caws and other intermittent humming birds.
Everything about their home was matt and lacked lustre. All you hear are frays and whirling of trees. There cushions and dining tables were covered in transparent nylons. As if they are yet to settle. The air in their living room was always arid and stifling. It smelt confused, like a comatose mortuary, pungent like bleach; bleach used to wash off spoilt meats in Abattoirs. Like soured paint.
Their home was also always awfully quiet. It was weirdly neat as well. You wonder if people habit it.
Sidney and her younger siblings were always upstairs in their rooms. They had an extra-large wall-TV in their sitting room that was never used. I can’t remember ever seeing it on. It was also wrapped in water-proof.
The people in the building were weirder than the building itself. Let me say that Sidney and her dad were cut from different sleeves. Her other siblings… well-not so. They were like semi-robots. They behaved like Tarzan the first time he met humans; giddy and strange, present but absent. They giggle a lot. Like a vein was missing in their brains. They look smooth and fragile- soft and strong. You can tell they were yet to meet the world. They were home-schooled, with their clothes usually in poor taste and quality, the arm sleeves always slinging off their shoulders which always reveals the upper part of their breasts. They were 17 and 19 respectively. And they look so much alike.
During my initial days in their home, they used to work me up. They made me feel so uncomfortable that I always insist that Sidney stays with me at all times. Sometimes they will ally themselves into an opposite seat and began to whisper and chuckle while stealing a glimpse of me in brief moments. I was like a recreated Santa. It felt so weird.
I have from time to time caught them in a rather suggestive tongue-tied situation, though. The one that never leaves the mind was during an Easter period when they invited me to come and break bread with them as the newest and fondest friend of the family. Of course there was much to eat than necessary. In between the meal I felt pressed and had to use the convenience. I signaled to Sidney as she gracefully showed me the way.
“Use the families own not the visitors”.
“Just climb up to the fourth door on your right”
She directed sounding as familiarly as possible. I found my way alright, but after the business I had a little difficulty finding my way back. I ambled around the multi-square stretched entrances that led to nowhere in particular for almost five minutes.
Finally I followed a passage that stretched to two connected bedrooms linking to the left which doors were left ajar. I tiptoed in that direction, unsure of someone’s reaction if seen in such an unfamiliar territory.
I heard diminutive voices, whispering from one of the rooms. There were two voices; Sidney’s sisters. Carefully I came by the door and gently craned my neck into the opening space only to see a scene broadly beyond whatever I could expect at that very moment. They weren’t doing anything strange, actually; they just crawled and squatted on the bed lengthwise- giggling, but their under wears strewed around the room as their arms rested on their knee-caps. You can tell they were naked even though their long-loosed t-shirts covered them to their thighs. Something was just off, you could tell. Blood stains smeared on their bed sheet, Aunty Ewedu who was with them straddled at the left edge of the bed with her left knee tightly hugged to her chest. She was biting her tongue murmuring feverishly, jerking herself back and forth like a man who has saw a ghost and was overwhelmed in trauma. The foreheads of the girls were dotted with droplets of sweats.
Their faces met mine. I was spooked. They weren’t. They simultaneously bent their faces underneath their folded arms and began to chuckle mischievously. I was unease at that very moment. Cold chills ran down my spine. I didn’t know what it was but something very ugly must have happened.
On another fateful day as I came by to pick Sidney up for an outing, I met the girls again, this time downstairs and their usual selves of giggling and whispering. I did my best to avoid them by taking the seat closest to the television.
They sauntered around the room in company of their husked voices and loosed –sleeves-slanting T-shirts. I glued my eyes to my phone pretending to be surfing the internet. Within moments they began to make one awful cry that portends nothing in particular. After another very short moment I heard them making a croaky strappy sound, like a quick pull of a rubber band.
Out of the blue, the younger one came in front of me and stood still. I craned my neck beyond my phone and saw her legs closely clenched and slightly quivering. Gradually I looked up only to see her T-shirt completely unbuttoned. The shirt gives you the leeway of seeing the middle skin of her body and the line that ran through and parted her two breasts. I tilted back in shock and swallowed my saliva.
“My God, what’s this nah”?
I thought out loud. I turned and saw her other sister conspicuously leering at us behind the wall of their dining table. She was giggling with her both palms placed on her mouth. I was nonplussed and befuddled. I didn’t know what to make of it. She just stood there gawping at me; half-naked! She ran back to her sister after a minute or two as they both giggled and ran back upstairs, still giggling. I couldn’t tell Sidney. What was I to say?
“hey Sidney your psycho sisters tried to seduce Me” Nah, I can’t.
Aunty Ewedu was the next strange thing in the house. She was mentally and physically challenged. Her mouth and both palms were deformed and disfigured. Her lips were curled to the left while her palms were cupped and back-twisted. She spits when she talks. There was just something strange about her. You can feel it but can’t place it. She seems to have some kind of authority of her own.
She was a nuisance, of course, but Honourable and his wife and every other person in the family seems to have this awkward respect for her. She gets her way every time. I remember one Sunday morning I came around and met her shouting at honourable. I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. She was cursing Honourable around like an underage scallywag. Honourable was silent and quiet. He didn’t utter a word. She was saying something about bondage and liberation.
She said “honourable encaged her”.
“That honourable stole her destiny”.
“That honourable was a destiny killer”.
Aunty Ewedu always appears restive and truculent. Like Sidney’s younger siblings she wears the same style of cloths- or same clothes, maybe- on daily basis. She is not their cook but scents of food seasonings, especially curry leaf, always wafts off from her clothes. Aunty Ewedu had a small face with big bulgy eyes. Her skin was frail and brittle. She was dark in complexion, easy going, but strange. She had a body and personality of a lady who had a glorious past. It reflected on her carriage despite her twitchy mental glitches. Her eyes were always deep and sunken, like a ghostly portal that leads into the world of misery and misfortunes.
Whatever Aunty Ewedu’s case was, she was trouble. There was a day I came by to run errands for Honourable. As usual I was kept waiting. Aunty Ewedu was downstairs so I braced myself for a possible harassment. She came and sat adjacent to me; on a white-tinted wooden armless cushion. She was silent for a while, blurting out incomprehensible words every now and then.
All of a sudden, to my strangest bewilderment, Aunty Ewedu burst into a wide vortex-like theatrics of uncontrolled gesticulations, like a mad woman caught in a wide trance. She just started writhing in the chair like someone freshly possessed by a demon. Her lips were tightly clenched while her fingers gritted tortuously in quick successive movements. I kept mum and remained dead in my chair— unmoved and tightly braced while watching her cautiously with the corner of my right eye.
After some minutes she stopped and cowed, wincing exasperatedly. She began to shiver and shudder in a loud hoarse and throaty husky voice; like an aggravated rasp, spitting indiscriminately into the air. By then I was already half dead in fear. Something unexpected happened. She calmed down, ice-cold-down. Like someone finally subdued.
She reclined into her seat and placed her both palms on her face like a juvenile caught in misdemeanor. I took a long deep breath and thanked God for his mercies not knowing that the drama has just barely begun.
The worst happened! Out of the blue Aunty Ewedu jumped and pounced on me, punching and gnawing my skin with her long and uneven finger nails. She was like a crouching tiger, stronger than I imagined. She stretched her hands to my neck, attempting to strangle me. We scuffled and ferried around.
“Somebody help! Somebody come!” I beckoned. I was in control so I wasn’t really terrified. I could out-power her and I did.
She rained curses on me; calling me the same names she called Honourable: destiny killer, evil man, free me! Free me!! Free me!!! She cried. It wasn’t long as one of their butlers paced in and began to pry her away. She struggled and wrestled, resisting the butler’s grip as vigorously as possible. Her lightly grayed soft shaggy hair became more unfurled. She screamed and spat at me. She spat sporadically into the air. Damn she spat at me!
Finally honourbale and the other rest of the family rushed down. They didn’t ask what the problem was because they already knew. They just stood, arms folded to the back and chest.
Honourable beckoned me into his home office. When I entered I found him in a rather unsettled condition. He seemed agnostic and implacable and was sauntering around the office like someone that has so much to process. He offered me a seat but remained standing. I sat and cast my gaze upon him. Ears keen to hear him. Finally he took a deep breath and began to speak.
“Look, my boy, I’m terribly sorry for what just happened”
“I know you must have seen it coming, one way or the other. Merely looking at her you can tell she is a bit mentally challenged. We have done all we could to get her the best possible care for her condition but all have proven fruitless.”
He paused for a moment before speaking again, probably to heighten the importance of his next statement.
“I don’t know whether you know this or not but Ewedu is actually my wife—my first wife.” he quipped.
The words sounded heavy in his mouth as they crawled out. My eyes engorged in hearing it. “Wow I didn’t know.” I uttered, sincerely astonished.
“Yes, so many people don’t know,” he added. “Anyways there is so much that has happened which I may not be able to divulge to you now, but let not your heart wander too far off over this, because I can assure you that it’s really nothing that bad, alright? He appealed.
“Alright” I replied.
“So let’s get to the main purpose of your visit today,” he said, sounding as prosaic as possible. He was sending me on an errand; a transactional errand.
Honourable has grown fond of sending me on money errands that appears to be genuine but unscrupulous at the same time. Sometimes he will call and ask me to safe-keep an executive slush fund that ran into hundreds of millions for him. Most times the money stays with me for weeks, even months, until he commands me to move them to the bank, with no obvious reasons whatsoever… I thought it to be his exceptional own way of earning my trust, of bringing me closer to him.
I knew there would be a long ball to whatever game he was playing with me but I didn’t care. I gave myself to him. I gave myself to his family, this same family that seems enchanting and horrific at the same time. Like a vista of tinsel plagued by a promising rise of an unknown misfortune.
I knew I had a story with them, a story that will most likely be tumultuous. But I didn’t mind. I kept wading through the dunes, craning my neck upwards for a glimpse of something slightly heartwarming, no matter how small or inconsequential it might be, at least a little gain.