The entrance into grandfather’s part of the compound was shrouded by flowers and creepers. Smooth stones had been placed on the ground to mark the path from each house to the next but it was only the paths to grandfather’s house that was covered and protected from the sun. Aunty Benedicta and I entered the house through the back door that linked directly to her own house in the huge compound. An old woman wearing a uniform bent her knee to us as we passed; Aunty Benedicta ignored her like she did not exist but I saw the woman’s eyes widen on seeing me then she smiled. “At last, someone was happy to see me here. That counts for something I guess.” I thought to myself as I smiled back.
We entered a big room filled with chairs and tables. Several persons were seated around engaged in one of activity or the other. Aunt Benedicta ignored them and led me up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs, we met Uncle Jude who stood to the side, staring at me curiously. Aunt Benedicta passed him without a word and opened a door that stood almost at the edge of the stairs. The door opened to a small parlour that was empty save for a lady who was watching the television. She looked at us disinterestedly and turned away. Aunt Benedicta motioned me to wait in the parlour and she walked through another door and disappeared. I greeted the woman, sat on one of the chairs in the parlour and watched the woman from the corner of my eyes while pretending to watch the program on the television.
Some minutes later, Uncle Jude entered the parlour and walked up to the woman. He leaned and whispered in her ears and both of them turned to look at me. I caught their stares from the corner of my eyes then I turned to look at both;
Woman: “she sure looks like her but that doesn’t mean anything. What is your name, girl?” she asked.
Princess: “Princess.” I replied. My phone rang out and I brought it out of my pocket and looked at the caller; it was Dr Eki.
Princess: “good evening ma?” I said
Dr Eki: “have you arrived there?” she asked
Princess: “yes ma. I have arrived here not too long ago. The Uber driver helped.” I replied.
Dr Eki: “have you seen him?” she asked. I knew she was referring to my grandfather.
Princess: “no I haven’t but soon. How is Mama? Is she better?” I asked.
Dr Eki: “she was calm today and asked after you. I told her you were in Kano with your uncle.” She replied
Princess: “please if you get to work tomorrow, can I speak to her?” I asked.
Dr Eki: “if she is better, you will talk to her. How is your family over there?” she asked.
Princess: “they are weird.” I replied and looked up as Aunty Benedicta came to me and beckoned. “I have to go. Please call me tomorrow.” I added. We said our goodbyes as I walked with Aunty Benedicta into another room.
This room was gloomy. The curtains had been drawn over the windows and the only light in it was a reading lamp that sat on a table close to the bed. On the bed was an old man. He looked small like a baby. His face was a mass of wrinkles but his eyes were bright with life. I walked hesitantly towards the bed and stood.
Princess: “good evening grandfather.” I said. I heard Aunty Benedicta gasp but I didn’t care. I had not come here to hide.
He chuckled and raised his hand. A man stepped out of the shadows dressed in all black. He lifted grandfather as if he weighed nothing and placed his back on the mass of pillows at the head of the bed.
Grandfather: “come close, let me look at you. More light please.” he said. His voice was still sharp and commanding despite his obvious age.
Light came on in the room; not too bright though. It was one of those lights that you can increase or reduce the intensity. I suddenly saw that there were two other men in the room. I step close to the bed and stared at him
Grandfather: “you called me grandfather, child? Which of my children; legitimate or otherwise gave birth to you?” he asked, gazing at me with hard eyes.
Princess: “Matilda sir.” I replied. From the corner of my eyes I saw the two men turned to me with surprise on their faces. Aunty Benedicta groaned as if in pain. The man in black revealed nothing; his face remained impassive.
Grandfather: “Matilda? That is a name I have not heard in years. So you are the product of her stupidity ehn?” he asked.
Princess: “Mama is a lot of things sir, but she has never been stupid.” I replied. There was a shocked silence in the room.
Grandfather: “well she has spirit.” He said then he chuckled; “have you come to watch me die then?” he asked.
Princess: “I have come to ask for your help. I didn’t even know your name some months ago?” I replied angrily.
Grandfather: “and as soon as you knew it and discovered that I was rich and about to die, you came here for your share, right?” he asked rhetorically.
Princess: “my mother, your daughter…” I replied, pointing at him; “…is in a psychiatrist hospital battling with mental health issues. I am surrounded by people who do not care if she lives or dies; I came here, thinking…no hoping to find help. I am not interested in your money or whatever.” I replied.
Grandfather: “where is Thomas?” he asked softly. I stared at him blankly; “who is Thomas?” I thought. “Where is your father?” he asked, sighing in irritation.
Princess: “he is dead.” I replied.
Grandfather: “interesting. So did he take care of Matilda while he was alive?” he asked.
Princess: “he had a good chemist business. Yes he took care of us well.” I replied.
Grandfather: “chemist ehn? Interesting… at least he put his skills to good use.” He replied, half to himself, half to me.
Princess: “where you not the one who taught him the chemist business?” I asked curious.
Grandfather: “was that what he told you?” he asked chuckling. I didn’t understand what he was trying to say; “my dear child your father was one of my best mules. Chemist! Ha! Will chemist business give me so much wealth?” he asked.
Princess: “mule?” I asked.
Grandfather: “your father trafficked drugs for me, girl. He helped me sell coke, heroine, weed, whatever to clients all over Africa and abroad.” He said.
My mouth opened in shock. I wanted to contradict him but I had seen the houses and the premises; there was no way, several chemist shops could make a man this wealthy. “Jesus! more secrets. Did I truly know my parents?” I asked myself.
The room door opened and another man stepped into the room. He looked at me angrily and turned to my grandfather;
Moses: “what is this I hear; that this little thief is Matilda’s daughter? And you Beni, you brought her before father? Are you mad?” he said.
I turned to see Aunty Benedicta shrink beneath the attack.
Princess: “and why exactly should this little thief not see her grandfather?” I asked, feeling the familiar anger boil within.
Moses: “look at this little idiot, did no one tell you when to shut up? I will come over there now and crush your head to the floor now, fool. Now leave this room this instance.” He said harshly.
Grandfather chuckled again; “well what an introduction. Princess I will like to introduce you to your uncle Moses; my eldest son. He thinks he owns my properties now that I am old and bedridden. Hehehehe… Moses she sure looks like the girl you used to fuck when you thought no one was watching, right?” he asked.
The silence in the room could be cut with a knife. “So this is Mama’s molester; the reason why she ran away from home and never came back? And he knew; he knew but he did nothing about it.” I thought to myself, staring at my mother’s family with a familiar feeling of fear. “What sort of people are these?”
Question: Matilda’s family does not seem to be a healthy one. Will Princess be able to survive the intrigues and bitterness that lies beneath the wealth and flamboyance in the Erejuwa home?