Princess: “what deal?” I asked.
Uncle Maximus: “your father’s will have some conditions that I find irritating. He leaves everything to your mother until she dies then you inherit the rest. He makes a condition that you take care of your step brother and gift him half of the inheritance when he turns twenty-one.” He said.
Princess: “so?” I asked
Uncle Maximus: “your mother sold the house. I had to buy it back. She squandered the little funds in the bank on God knows what. What is left is just the shop here in Warri and the one in Benin. The landed properties have all been sold. I didn’t sell them; no one knows who sold them. Your father’s lawyer does not know. That leaves your mother as the culprit but we can’t even ask her because she has conveniently gone mad. My deal with you is, walk away from the inheritance. Hand it over to me as trustee until your brother turns twenty-one. Do this, I will give you the necessary information you need to find your mother’s people and also take care of your mother until she finds herself again.” He said
Princess: “and if I refuse your offer? I could fight for what is mine in a court of law.” I replied with a confidence, I didn’t feel. “What had Mama done with Papa’s properties?” My head was still trying to digest the information.
Uncle Maximus: “if you refuse, Eki here will sign certifying that your mother is sane and throw her out of the hospital. She will become your responsibility. If you take the case to court, you will have to explain to the court what your mother had done to the properties. Why do you think I had her arrested those years ago? There’s barely nothing left to inherit.” He replied angrily.
I looked at him and Papa’s mistress. This was a battle I could not win. “What did Mama do with the properties?” the question hung like a big banner in my head. It didn’t make sense. I needed time.
Princess: “this is not something that I can just agree to like that. I need to think about it.” I said.
Uncle Maximus: “what is there to think about? Just come to the lawyer’s office and sign some documents and you are free to go do whatever you want.” He replied, roughly.
Dr Eki: “how much time do you need to think?” she asked softly. I looked at her quietly trying to fathom what was going on in her head
Princess: “one week.” I replied.
She nodded and turned to Uncle Maximus, who sighed and turned away. She smiled and turned back to me;
Dr Eki: “I guess you want to see your mother?” she asked. I nodded. She got up and beckoned on me to follow her.
Mama was asleep when we entered her room. There were two other women in the room with her. I moved carefully among them as they were both awake. One was staring at the wall like it was a movie screen while the other smiled and waved at me. I flinched and moved back. Dr Eki chuckled.
Dr Eki: “they don’t bite.” She said.
Princess: “have you been able to discover what is actually wrong with her?” I asked as we stood before Mama’s bed.
She looked older. I had not seen her in long while. There was grey in her hair and tiny wrinkles around her closed eyes. She was still the most beautiful woman I know but she was fading before my eyes. I grabbed her hand and sat beside the bed.
Princess: “will she ever get better?” I asked; the pain I felt enveloped me in depression.
Dr Eki: “by God’s grace she will. Just have faith and continue to be strong for her.” she said. I looked at her surprised. She smiled; “I am not a gold digger or a slut. I make good money and I can take care of my son. Your Uncle insists on this deal because he is a boy and he will carry your father’s name. I will look after your mother for you but you need to find out what you want from life. You need to make that decision before one man comes and makes it for you.” she added.
I nodded my head at the soundness of her advice. I turned to Mama and climbed into the bed with her. Dr Eki moved to protest but I was not going to leave my mother without feeling her warmth one last time. As I laid there, holding her hand, I wondered again; “What did Mama do with Papa’s properties?”
Matilda: “Princess you came.” Her soft voice filtered into my dream and I opened my eyes. I turned to find her looking at me, love in her eyes.
Princess: “Mama you are better! Thank God! We can go now. We can leave this place.” I replied happily, hugging her. She hugged me back chuckling.
Matilda: “I can’t go my darling. I am not okay. There is something wrong with me. If I leave here with you, I might become a liability to you.” she replied, rubbing my head.
Princess: “but Mama, look at you now…you are talking well and you recognize me. We could go to Lagos to meet you family and they will let us live with them for sure.” I said eagerly.
Matilda: “you go to Lagos and find your grandfather. Do whatever he wants you to do, become a strong woman and I will fight my own battles here. When you get to Lagos, look for my younger sister, Benedicta. She has something for you.” she said softly.
Princess: “Mama we cannot give up. We can do this?” I replied grabbing her hands.
Matilda: “what is this one? Abeg leave me alone! Shuo! See as you hold me like I am your sister or your mother? My friend! Where is this doctor sef?” she shouted.
My heart collapsed as I stepped back with each verbal assault. The recognition had left her eyes. I turned as Dr Eki entered the room. The other patients had started howling along with her. I ran away from the room and did not stop until I got outside the hospital then I burst into tears.
I was crying, clutching my arms around myself when Dr Eki came to meet me outside. She held me and comforted me until my sobs subsided. I thanked her and turned to leave.
Princess: “one week then I will tell you what I have decided.” I said, then I walked out of the hospital into the night.
My money was running out. I had just enough to get me to Lagos but I still needed the address and I had not made up my mind on what to do about the deal with my Uncle. That was the least of my problems; I needed a place to sleep. I turned around outside the hospital premises until I saw a Toyota Camry drive out. Dr Eki sat behind the wheel. She slowed down on seeing me
Princess: “can I crash at your place?” I asked. She said nothing as she opened the door and I entered.
Question: “Do you think Princess should take her uncle’s deal? Can Dr Eki be trusted?