I took Dr Eki’s last words with me to Lagos. So Mama was also a victim of molestation? Who could have done such a thing to her that she was too afraid to confront the person?” I thought, then I blushed in shame when I remembered that I too was running from fear too. I was no different from my mother. The realization made me decide to get to the bottom of this old mystery. Too many secrets have been kept from me. Finding out about Dr Eki and Teddy had been a pleasant surprise; I doubted if such pleasantness awaited me in my grandfather’s arms.
I arrived in Lagos in the late afternoon and started to navigate my way through the myriad descriptions, Uncle Maximus had written down for me in his chicken scratch writing. Dr Eki had advised me to use Uber to get around as it would make my navigation easier. I did as she instructed and soon found myself before one big building. The building looked more like a modest church than someone’s home. I asked the driver if he was sure of the address and the old man became angry that I was second guessing his knowledge of the nooks and cranny of Lagos. I apologized and got out of the taxi. I checked the meter and paid the man the fare. The taxi sped away immediately.
I stood before the gate of the immense structure and pondered on my next steps.
I had a small bag slung over my shoulder; I had not carried any of my clothes when I was running away from my uncle’s amorous advances, so Dr Eki had got me some few necessaries. I breathed in deeply, then I walked to the gate with all the confidence that I could fake and knocked on it. A peephole opened and a bulging eye peered at me from behind the gate;
Gateman: “yes?” he asked rudely.
Princess: “is this Chief Erejuwa’s house?” I asked, moving the bag from my right shoulder to my left.
Gateman:”yes… is there any problem?” he asked.
Princess: “I am looking for Benedicta Erejuwa?” I replied, working on a hunch.
Gateman: “aunty Benedicta? Wetin be your name?” he asked, his eyes roving all over me suspiciously.
Princess: “tell her Matilda from Warri.” I replied.
The peephole slammed shut and I was left waiting under the heat. About five minutes later, I heard the tap of hurrying feet; I swallowed and said a quick prayer.
The gate opened and a lady that looked so like Mama stood before me. She gasped at me, putting her hands over her mouth;
Benedicta: “you look so much like her when she was younger.” She said then she frowned; “are you mad, using her name like that here? What are you doing here? Where is Matilda?” she asked.
Princess: “Mama is sick. She said I should come to meet you.” I replied.
Benedicta: “sick? I have not heard from her in many years then she sends me a message three years ago… Oh dear, my bad, let’s get out of the sun. You must be tired and famished. Come in, come in.” she said. I entered the compound, my mind wondering about what she was going to say before.
I looked about and stopped thinking immediately. The compound was big. In the centre was the mammoth building that looked like a church; around it were other smaller buildings. This is too much. I knew I was embarrassing myself as I stared around but I didn’t care; “how much will somebody have that will allow him build such a gigantic structure in this large piece of land? So there’s money in selling drugs like this?” I asked myself.
Aunty Benedicta led me to one of the buildings that stood apart from the big building in the middle of the compound. I entered the house and stared some more. I had thought Dr Eki’s house was beautiful; this was awesome, it was stupendous. I had learnt that word during my my preparation for my WAEC; stupendous. I giggled. My Aunt turned to me curiously;
Princess: “your house is fine?” I said.
Benedicta: “it is your grandfather’s not mine. Turn around, let me take a look at you.” she said, settling into a sofa.
I dropped my bag and turned around slowly. She nodded her head
Benedicta: “the resemblance is there but how can you convince me that you are my sister’s child?” she suddenly asked.
My jaw dropped in surprise. “She thought I was lying about my identity? Is she serious?” “Excuse me? You think I left Benin early this morning with a lie?” I asked, angrily.
Benedicta: “my dear, my father is a very rich man. He has many children who have given birth to more children than I care to remember. Once in a while, a woman comes with a child, claiming to be the mistress of one brother or the other, or the daughter of one of father’s numerous mistresses. We have become very careful at welcoming strangers claiming to be family to our home.” She replied.
Princess: “if you did not believe me, why did you bring me into the compound?” I asked, unbelieving.
Benedicta: “and leave you to cause a scene at the gate? Do you know what the mention of that name could unleash in this household? Never mind, what exactly do you want?” she asked.
Princess: “my mother is sick. She has been declared mentally ill and is presently in a psychiatric hospital…”
Benedicta: “you need money? How much do you need?” she asked, cutting me off. I didn’t expect that;
Princess: “I don’t know, Mama said she left something for me with you… she needs care; I don’t know how much it will cost but I can ask her doctor?” I replied, bringing out my phone.
Benedicta: “you are a fool if you think I will just bring out money from my pocket because you told me an unbelievable story.” She replied. My hand paused halfway.
I could not understand this woman. I had not counted on her not believing me. I had thought I would have been driven, possibly for being my mother’s daughter, but not this. I felt the anger gather in my chest like hot breath.
Princess: “I thank you for your time, ma. I can see why mama and Papa never talked about you people. It is obvious that all you people see is profit and loss, money and greed. Thank you. I will find my way out.” I said and turned to the door.
At that moment the door opened and a man entered without knocking. He stopped short on seeing me;
Man: “Matilda?” he said, shock on his face.
Benedicta: “don’t be a fool, Jude; how will Matilda be this young? This is my new maid, Prisca. What do you want?”
Jude: “erm…father wants to see you…” he replied to her, but his eyes were on me.
Aunty Benedicta waved her hands nonchalantly.
Aunty Benedicta: “I am on my way. Thank you.” she replied and pushed the man out of the house. She closed the door and turned to me; “well you can’t leave now.” She said.
Princess: “who is going to stop me?” I asked, getting ready for a fight.
Aunty Benedicta: “as I speak to you, father has heard about you and he would want to see you. If you value your peace and your skin, my dear girl, do not utter a word about Matilda in that room. Do I make myself clear?” she asked, rising on the balls of her feet. If she sought to make me scared, she failed.
Princess: “so am I your maid or your niece?” I asked, finding a chair.
She opened her mouth then closed it then she frowned and muttered under her breath. Well she could say whatever she liked; I had no plans on leaving as long as I have the opportunity of seeing my grandfather.
Question: Princess has guts sha! Who would want to terrorise Princess in the house? Why does Aunty Benedicta want her out of the house so bad?