“What are you doing here?”
“Can I come in?”
Clara looked him up and down, considering whether to let him in or not, she decided on the formal. For all she knew, he may had come to give her good news, maybe he has considered coming back to her after all, she smiled and opened the door wild for him.
She saw the way he looked at her un-kept and stuffy room, like it would dent his Immaculate White Navy uniform. She lifted the torn curtain and tied it to a knot, and pushed the only window in the room open for ventilation “This is all I could get with the little money I have, you know how expensive renting a house is these days” she said awkwardly
Ebube nodded and carefully sat on a wooden chair “How are you Clara?” he asked.
Elizabeth brought the suggestion “Go and see her, settle your differences … how long will you bear grudge for a woman who made a mistake?” Elizabeth had said
“I am not bearing a grudge for anyone…and it wasn’t a mistake” he defended stubbornly
“Okay, it wasn’t a mistake, but you have to set her free…”
“What do you mean ‘set her free’? she left on her own, she gave me a divorce paper! She turned her back on me when I pleaded for her to stay! How then am I the one to set her free? She is free already” he had almost gotten angry at Elizabeth
But as he sat in that room, looking at the girl who couldn’t look back at him, she was fiddling with her fingers and looking from side to side as if she was searching for something, he knew he needed to tell her that she should let go of her guilt.
“I am fine…ehn, just managing” Clara replied “I heard you travelled to Bonny last month, your mother told me…I went to see Oma but…she refused me seeing her”
“Sorry about that” Ebube said
“Ehm…that’s Okay, it doesn’t matter now” she brushed her kinky hair with her fingers “I also wouldn’t have allowed my grandchild to come leave in a place like this if I was your mother” she added. She went to a cupboard by the bed and brought out two bottles of small Stout “Stout?” she offered. Ebube shook his head “Oh” she exclaimed in disappointment before she walked back to where she was seated “You used to like it” she opened one bottle with her teeth and had a long drink, “I didn’t know you are in town” she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand
“I came in earlier today”
She took the bottle again and drank a little “So why did you come to see me?”
“I was at your father’s house…sorry for your loss” he said
“Oh, I am trying to get over it” she said
“I am sorry you are going through what you are going through now” He didn’t know whether it was the right thing to say without making her thing that he was coming back for her.
She was shocked, she gripped the bottle for support “I don’t know Ebube, I am the one to be sorry” she finished the content in a gulp
“I came to tell you that I have forgiven you” he saw her eyes lightened up “You should move on with your life…I have moved on” she trembled and he noticed
She opened the second bottle and drank “There is another woman” it was a statement
“There was never ‘us’ Clara”
She drank and nodded “What of our daughter? Can’t we try again because of her?”
“You know it won’t work between us again, Omalicha will understand when she grows up”
She nodded continuously while her eyes roamed round her room, it has shrunken in size and she felt trapped. Ebube pitied her, at thirty, she looked like a child than a woman
“You could go back to school you know” he suggested
She gave a laughter mixed with despair “I can’t” she drank “I cannot afford it even if I want to”
“I am not promising anything but I think you can if you want to, you can start a business which may fund your education…that is if you want to” when she picked the bottle again to drink, he added “And you have to clean yourself up and stop drinking”
She dropped the bottle but not without defense “Who are you to tell me how to leave my life?” she retorted
Ebube didn’t answer her but went ahead to set his offer before her “You were once a seamstress; I believe that you can find your feet there if you will have a refreshing course on it…”
“I am not doing that laborious work again” she cut in, but he ignored
He brought out a Cheque from his pocked, scrambled something on it and placed it on the table before her “I don’t know what you want to do, but this will help you establish a little thing” he straightened his cloth “You can go back to school later if you want to” when she said nothing, he picked his forage cap and made for the door
“So this is it? What of Omalicha? I still have custody…” she said behind him
“Not for long, the court will readily revoke the custody if they know you are as unstable as you are now” he answered
He waited for her to say something more, when she kept mute, he opened the old wooden door
“Thank you…your forgiveness means so much to me”
He placed his cap on his head, looked at her and gave her an encouraging nod, he stepped outside and surrendered his face for the sun to bath it. He was free and a happy man now
“Babe” he spoke to his woman on the phone “It is done, thank you so much…love you…of course I will, naughty girl…Lizy stop!…Okay” he felt like heaven was coming down on him.
Clara watched him leave before she picked the cheque, four hundred thousand Naira, with her name on it, she lay on the bed and cried in gratitude and in regret.
That night she didn’t go back to the bar, when Papa Ochuko called, she lied that she was sick. She wasn’t surprised when he showed up in her house, she hadn’t the will to turn him down yet, so he bleeped her while she watched two Wall geckos that were fighting on her ceiling.
“Daddy can I come to ‘Pot acut’ with you?”
“not yet darling, it’s not yet time”
“But I wanna”
“I wanna…” the child broke down in tears
Her grandmother lifted her up and placed her on her old laps “It’s okay love, you will go to Port Harcourt when daddy is ready to get you a big dog that will be playing with you” the old woman said while she wiped the tears from the child’s face
She looked at her son who was busy with his food “She needs to be with you Ebubechukwu”
“I know mother, but I can’t help it, I will not give her the attention she needs, except you will agree to come to Port Harcourt as well”
“I told you why I can’t leave this place to Port Harcourt…”
“The same story every day, come and breath fresh air in Port Harcourt” He licked his fingers. The child has climbed down from the old woman’s laps and was seated close to her father who gave her a piece of fish.
“It’s been four years now and this child is in need of a mother”
Unlike before when he would have frowned and gave one excuse or another, he brought the soup plate to his lips, drained the soup in it and licked his lips
“Ebubechukwu, I have been saying this since last two years and you said you were working hard to make money, now what is going on?”
“Mother calm down” he smiled, when he saw the confusion on his mother’s face, he laughed “Actually mom, I met someone, a lady you will love”
“Daddy is she your girlfriend?” The girl asked innocently, with her mouth full. The two adults looked at each other and looked at the child who didn’t care. She swallowed and continued her analysis “Chuks my friend said that when a man meets a woman, they will become girlfriend and boyfriend, and then they will get married” she looked at her father “Are you going to marry her dad…and both of you will make more babies?”
He entered the administrative block of the Naval Base, after he came back from his trip three days later, he sensed the tensed atmosphere and the suggestive stares from some officers.
“The Admiral has been waiting for you, he said you must report to him this morning immediately you come” Abdul said while trying to catch up with Ebube who had his key slotted in the key hole
“Hope there is no problem” Ebube asked
“I think there is…the list of names of officers who will be going to Somalia is out, and it is rumored that your name is in it” Ebube stopped I shock
“How true is this rumor?” he asked
“I don’t know, but it has been going on since you left…maybe that is why the Admiral wants to see you”
His eyes left Abduls face to search those around them, he saw what he was looking for, confirmations
“I will be back” he left to meet the Admiral.
“You are to get your things together; you will be leaving with the chopper tomorrow morning to Abuja” The Amira said
“Sir but why? I barely survived the deployment to Libya Eight years ago, I lost my marriage because of that mission, why me now?” he was broken
“this is what you sighed up for son”
“What of the Army? It is their job to go for these things not ours”
“It is a joint force Captain, and don’t tell me what is and what is not our Job, I know that more than you do”
Ebube heaved a sigh, “What chance do I have” he asked solemnly
“Chance of survival?” Allah will decide, but then, it is not as bad as you think, there are others. Admiral Dambo fought not to be depressed by the situation too “You are one of the best men I have here, but when orders come from above, I can do nothing about it” he held Ebube on the shoulder.
Ebube accepted the Later, nodded and made for the door
“You have just tonight to get ready Captain”
He walked out, and met Abdul waiting “Sorry Man” Abdul said
“Who else is on the list?” Ebube asked
“That Junior Officer, Aminu”.
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