Last we heard was that Hannah was now very much in love with Chike and all the good things he could offer, such that she was desperately looking to get rid of Jonas permanently. This problem was one she set all her efforts to solve.
New plans were thought up and subsequently trashed and she was getting frustrated with her lack of success, until one airy afternoon, while sitting just outside their house, she hit on a new idea that was easy, safe and less-risky. She would write a letter to Jonas, urging him to forget her and move on if he had not already done so. At least, before he comes back, Chike and I would be inseparable and even out of here, she thought.
Dashing into the house, she quickly fetched a blank sheet of paper and fell to work immediately. Hannah always kept her own counsel and she never told anyone her secrets, so it never crossed her mind to ask for opinions about this little venture of hers. Concentrating properly, she authored the letter as best she could, leaving no stone unturned.
Starting with a cheerful but distant salutation and introduction, she slowly dropped the bomb the only way a woman knew how to. First, she playfully chided him for not getting in touch with her, then she went ahead to make him relaxed by assuring him that she was by no means angry with him. Next, she revealed her ripened discomfort about the mediocrity and lack of maturity in their relationship so far, emphasizing the fact that it was no fault of his and absolving him of any moral or other obligation he must feel towards her. Lastly, she intimated to him the imminent need for them to break up and move on, expressing her deepest regrets at the current state of affairs and wished him success in his future endeavours.
She was so engrossed in crafting the letter to Jonas that she did not notice her father's approach.
"Ahem," he coughed.
"Ah Papa," she started in shock, but quickly recovered and folded up the paper and forced a smile to her face. "You're back. Ehh, h... how was your journey? Le... let me go and get you something to eat."
She had been scratching her hair and shifting from one foot to the other while her father watched her like an enthusiast watching fishes in the aquarium. She knew there would be lightning and thunderstorm if her father read her letter to Jonas, so she was in no small hurry to get inside the house and hide it.
"Eh... wait," he called out as she started running inside.
"What is it, Papa?", she asked, still smiling winningly.
"Is everything okay?"
"Of course, Papa," she laughed, the laughter smelling fake even to her. "Why do you ask?"
"This one that you're smiling and looking happy to see me and eager to prepare food for me... I hope all is well?"
"Ah Papa. You sef. Why won't all be well, eh? It's the breeze that's making me feel good. You know that inside is very hot and I hate heat."
"Okay o," her father sighed, taking the seat she had just left. "But what were you doing as I came?"
"Ahaha," she laughed again, even though her heart was beating wildly. "Nothing o... just eh... writing down some things I need."
"Ehen, that's good. Bring it let me see."
"Eh... no o, Papa. You don't need to worry about these ones. I don't need them immediately. In fact, I have just started writing, when I finish, I will let you know. Let me go and get food for you; you must be very hungry."
With that, she ran into the house, and went straight to hide the letter at the bottom of her bag after which she breathed a deep sigh of relief and crossed herself in the Catholic manner. Then she went to organize something for her father to eat.
The letter had been completed and sent through an intermediary to Jonas and Hannah felt happy and free. If there was any lingering problem, it would be her father, but she was confident that with time, she'd win him over or he'd be forced to align with her. Either way, she would be with Chike and they would live happily ever after in paradise.
He had since declared his undying love for her and had expressed the wish to take her to his mansion any time her father was absent, but the old man seemed unready to leave the comfort of his little home even for an hour.
One quiet evening, after he had taken his supper, he called his daughter and asked her to sit with him.
"Hannah, how is Jonas?", he asked.
"I don't know, Papa," she shrugged carelessly. "He has not contacted me up till now o."
"Do you even care to know?", he asked again.
"Hmm...", she sighed. "I don't know whether I care o, Papa. For all I know, he's with some other woman and has forgotten me completely."
"So is that why you're going about with this boy, Chike or whatever?"
"Eh?", she started in surprise. "I did not go out with anybody o. Who told you that, Papa?"
"So you thought I wouldn't know?", he asked, slowly shaking his head. "So who's he, this Chike?"
"Em...", she hesitated. "He's a friend bu... but I don't go out with him o."
"I hope you're not dropping Jonas and going for Chike, eh Hannah?"
"Papa I'm not dropping anybody or taking anybody o," she grumbled. "Not that it will be my fault anyway. Since Jonas has forgotten me, who can blame me if I forget him too."
"Ah Hannah! Hannah!! Hannah!!! How many times did I call you?"
"I don't know o, Papa. I did not count."
"Okay o. Keep jumping like a grasshopper. Patience and loyalty are important virtues. You must be patient and loyal till the end, so that others will not desert you in your time of need instead of decamping unnecessarily because you think the grass is green on the other side. For all you know, Jonas may be unable to contact you and for all anybody knows, that Chike of a personality may be a ritualist. Be careful o, Hannah. I will not cry with you tomorrow if you make stupid decisions today o, so be careful."
"Hmm," she sighed, rising to her feet. "Okay o, Papa. I have heard you. I'm going to sleep. Good night."
Like a basket, all her father's words drained through her, but unlike a basket, not one drop was left behind to add traces of moisture to the basket material. By the time she left the parlour and stepped into the room, she had already forgotten all about his lecture. She was in love with Chike and he loved her too. Whatever anyone thought about it was least her concern.
Papa had finally travelled and being alone and undisturbed, Hannah thought it was the perfect time to inform Chike and remind him of his offer to take her to his mansion. Using the second-hand phone she had recently saved to buy, she called Chike and set their meeting place and time. Hours later, they were on their way to his home.
It was a long drive, but it was not boring for Hannah. She was giddy with excitement and could not stop listening to Chike's description of the mansion's grandeur.
When they finally arrived at the house, Hannah was awestruck. Chike had done a good job of underrating the beauty of his palatial villa! It was large, grand and modern. With a fountain, two swimming pools, a tennis court, a basketball court and a large garden, Hannah saw it as the Biblical garden of Eden. If the outside is so beautiful what would the interior be like, she asked herself.
Chike gave her a quick tour of the exterior before inviting her inside. Hannah was short of words. It was truly a paradise on earth! Everything, from the chandelier to the soft rug, radiated wealth and class. Chike didn't waste much time showing her around, he simply grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the bedroom while she gazed around her with an awestruck but satisfied look on her face.
Hannah had the time of her life in Chike's villa. She loved every second she spent in it. Chike was so caring, loving and attentive. All she had to do was sleep, eat and sleep again. Chike did all the work. Everything was superb, from the food to the sex and to the man himself. She once asked him why he had no housekeeper, considering the size of the house, but he told her that he had given all his domestic workers a short holiday, so they would have the house to themselves. He wanted it to be both of them alone, no one else, so he could show how much he loved, cherished and cared for her. Oh, how Hannah's heart melted on hearing this. She silently thanked her stars for having run into such a very nice man. In fact, she could not believe that she was the same person that fell for that poor and classless Jonas! Anyway, she was glad that her mistake had been remedied and she was grateful for the second chance.
When it was time to return home, Hannah could not easily bring herself to think of leaving all of that wealth and luxury. Chike didn't want her to leave too, but she reminded him that if they were to ever meet again, she must leave immediately. After a lot of kisses, hugs and promises, Chike agreed to drive her home.
"Where are you coming from?", came Papa's voice from nowhere in particular.
Hannah was stunned. She froze on the spot, her right hand on the door knob and her heart rate on overdrive. But she quickly composed herself, plastered a smile on her face and turned around to find her father standing akimbo and watching her intently. He had been hiding behind the trunk of one of the surrounding trees, clearly mounting an ambush.
"Em...", she breathed, and smiled sweetly. "Night vigil. Eh... how was your journey, Papa? Hope it went well?"
"Of course," he answered amiably. "I'm sure yours went well too. Nice perfume. Nice lipstick. New shoes and shiny necklace. Did they give you all these things at the vigil? And where's your Bible, by the way?"
"I... I forgot it at Tinuke's place," she stammered.
"So you were with Tinuke... gossiping, abi... after the vigil, abi?", he asked, looking interested.
"Ye... yes Papa. We went to vigil together. Then we went to her house since I know you won't be back yet."
"Hmm," he sighed, drumming his fingers on his lips thoughtfully. "Tinuke Adesina, abi?"
"Hmm. But I just came from her place few minutes ago. I went to look for you, but her parents said that Tinuke had travelled since yesterday to visit her aunty in Ogun state... so which other Tinuke Adesina are you talking about?"
"I don't know, Papa," she half-shouted. "I've told you where I'm coming from. If you don't believe me, it's not my problem. I'm not a child, you cannot be monitoring me like a dog in a cage."
"Just like I thought. You are coming from Chike's place, right? After all my warnings, you still went ahead to do such rubbish, eh?"
"I don't care, Papa," she shouted. "Chike is a nice man. If you don't like him, that's your cup of tea. I was not born to suffer o, ehen. I will not live in poverty. God forbid! I am securing my future and that of my children's children. I love Chike whether you like it or not. What God has put together, no man can put asunder, not even you, Papa."
With that, she turned and marched into the house like an angry soldier ant while her father shook his head mournfully.
The holidays were approaching and everyone was getting ready to switch to festive mode. It was particularly a happy time for Hannah. Chike had travelled to the States and would be back in two weeks. He had promised her that on his return, he would take her with him back to the United States with or without her father's consent. Hannah was overjoyed. Her biggest dream was about to come true! She didn't care whether her father objected or not. She would soon leave him, Jonas and the rest of them behind and live happily forever after with Chike in America. She was busy daydreaming and imagining the luxury awaiting her when Tinuke's voice broke into her thoughts.
"Hannah!", she shouted.
"Ohhh God," Hannah grumbled. "What is it that you are disturbing my peace this afternoon, eh Tinuke? And when did you come back from your aunty's place?"
"Yesterday o, my sister," Tinuke sighed.
"What did you bring for us na?", Hannah asked disinterestedly.
"Abeg," hissed Tinuke, angrily. "You did not ask me what did I go and not come back with. That woman is as tight handed as a bronze statue."
"Naa wa," laughed Hannah. "You went without telling me, your so-called friend, and you're coming to complain. Good for you. Ntooooiiin."
"Sorry na, but I did not see you. Your house was locked. Anyway, guess what?"
"What?", asked Hannah, amused.
"Just guess na," Tinuke grumbled impatiently.
"Abeg, I'm not interested in your games. Just tell me. Abi you don carry belle?"
"Hmmm," Tinuke sighed, smiling with the air of someone who felt their secret was enormous. "Jonas has come!"
"Ehen?", Hannah hissed. "And so? Is that why you're shouting?"
"Ah," Tinuke blurted, looking genuinely astonished. "I mean Jonas o, your Jonas!"
"I said, And so?", Hannah shouted and hissed again. "Look, if you have nothing better to say, leave me alone let me rest abeg. Didn't you hear that we've broken up?"
"Eh?", Tinuke asked, her mouth hanging open in shock. "How? Why?"
"Abeg, abeg, abeg. Tinuke, come and be going if you know you want to ask me JAMB questions."
"Sorry o," Tinuke apologized, still thinking it was a joke. "I was just surprised."
"Then keep your surprise to yourself."
Tinuke obeyed and sat down quietly, racking her brain in an effort to process this latest information.
Jonas had not yet come to look for Hannah and she thought it a good sign. Her letter had done its work and Jonas had fallen in line. Problem solved. She was glad to be rid of him once and for all, but she was a little surprised when she heard rumors of him asking about her welfare. She simply put it to his having made peace with the status quo enough to want to be friends with her or was he trying to win his way back into her life? She would soon find out.
It was a cheery, sunny afternoon and Hannah was walking leisurely and singing sweetly as she traversed the tiny dirt road when suddenly,a she heard a male voice from among the bushes. She quickly turned around and was shocked to see a sick-looking but smiling Jonas limping toward her, a walking stick in one hand and a red rose in the other.
"I missed you so much, love," he croaked, in a voice that she could hardly recognize as his.
"Jonas," she blurted, eyeing him up and down with more surprise and pity than affection.
"I'm happier than ever to see you, my love. You look ravishing as usual. Forget about all this. I had a little accident while I was hurrying home to you, but for your love, I can go through much much worse. You see, I just got a very lucrative job and I can take care of you like I want to when we finally get married. In a few weeks, when I'm fully..."
"Excuse me, Jonas," she cut him off, plastering a superficial smile on her face. "I am very sorry for what happened to you... I truly am. But didn't you read my letter or did the accident also affect your eyes?"
"What letter?", Jonas asked, in total surprise.
"Oh. So you didn't get it? Or maybe you're pretending, thinking that I have changed my mind. Sorry, but I have not. Anyway, whether you saw it or not, let me tell you again what the letter was supposed to tell you... just to be very clear... ahem... as you can see, I look ravishing and that is because I have moved on. We both know our relationship was just a boy-girl affair, but now, I'm a woman. I have eyes and I have made my choice. You are free to make yours o. I won't judge... so far you don't judge me. If you are fair to yourself, you will know that we don't fit each other and it is long past time that we move on, separately. I mean, that is if you can still move anyway. Good day. Greet your family for me o. Bye bye."
With that, she turned on her heels and continued her singing, putting a lot of extra swagger in her step and swaying her hips in a carefree manner. Jonas was dumbstruck. He stood stock still, his mouth hanging open and the beautiful rose lying dejectedly on the ground. Eventually, with nothing left to do, he slowly turned around and headed home, drying the few tears that had escaped his firm resolve not to cry. He took solace in his late father's words: 'People will fail you, but don't fail yourself by letting it get to you'.
Three weeks had passed since Chike travelled, but Hannah had not still heard from him. She checked her phone every five minutes for missed calls and messages. She patrolled the dirt road three to four times daily, but still, no sign of Chike.
She prayed that everything was okay with him, but as the days passed, she became more and more alarmed. She could hardly eat; she was always deep in thought and constantly praying at every opportunity. But despite her emotional state, she was getting fatter, her skin brighter and it didn't take long for her to fall slightly ill.
Her father had chosen to do nothing but watch her as she sat listlessly, jumping at every sound, be it the sound of a message alert or the sound of a car.
One beautiful Saturday morning, as he sat in the parlour, munching his chewing stick and perusing the early morning papers, he saw Hannah run past him, clutching her mouth as if she was holding something back. Few seconds later, she sauntered back in, trying her best to look unaffected, but he could clearly see that all was not well with her. Since she had always told him that she could handle her problems and in order to avoid indirect insults from her, he shrugged and continued with the papers.
Soon after, he saw her coming out at an even greater speed, but this time, she didn't make it far out as she vomited on the veranda. Before he could say anything, she was already coming back and his fears were confirmed when she immediately ran back to vomit for the third time. He dropped his papers and stepped outside.
"Hannah, come here," he called out to her.
She staggered over to where he stood and leaned on the wall, clearly weak and exhausted.
"What's wrong with you?", he asked.
"I don't know o, Papa," she murmured in a barely audible voice.
"Are you pregnant?"
"No o, Papa!", she started, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Hmm," he sighed, shaking his head mournfully as she ran back for the fourth vomit.
"You are surely pregnant. Who's responsible, Hannah?"
"Papa I've told you I'm not pregnant," she replied angrily.
"Okay," he simply said and helped her into the house.
After he had made her sit comfortably, he went to a corner of the parlour and pulled out a long, thin but wicked-looking cane. Standing before the already trembling Hannah, he flexed the cane vigorously, making it slice through the air with a whoop whoop sound.
"Ehen Hannah, who did you say impregnated you? You see this cane? I will flog you with it round this town and throw your load after you if you don't answer me now. Who did you open those your stupid legs for?!"
"I... i... It's Chike," Hannah stuttered, already close to tears.
"Oh very good. My rich in-law. You have his number, abi? Call him now!"
"Th... the line is always switched off."
"Of course. He has gotten what he wants. I hope you know his house?"
"Yes... but it's very far."
"I don't care. Let it be in hell, we will go there. Get up, get dressed. We leave now!"
Hannah promptly staggered to her feet and scampered into her room to change. Her father, on the other hand, was dressing up with the speed of light in the parlour. In the next few minutes, they were both ready.
They stepped out and started their journey to the bus stop, with Hannah meekly leading the way while her angry father brought up the rear with his long cane like a cattle herder.
They reached Chike's mansion by noon and found it populated with domestic workers running to and fro. Hannah didn't know what to think. She could not imagine that Chike had abandoned her, but the alternatives, if any, were few.
Her father, having confirmed from her that they were in the right place, walked up to the gate and flogged rather than knock it. Instantly, a pleasant-looking gateman opened the gate and asked him his business.
"We're looking for Chike, your oga," Hannah's father replied with impatient anger.
"Sorry," the gateman said, shaking his head slowly. "There's no Chike here. My Oga and Madam are White people... they just bought this compound few weeks ago. They are out now, maybe they will return tomorrow."
"Eh?", Hannah's father asked, clearly perplexed. "So you mean nobody named Chike lives here? I'm not surprised. Anyway, do you know the former owners, where they packed to?"
"I think I heard Madam once say that they went to... "
He gave them the name of a popular estate in another part of the island and Hannah's father proceeded immediately, dragging his daughter along.
It was almost dark when they reached the estate and they were both totally exhausted. The journey could not have taken more than a few hours, but they were directed and misdirected and finally re-directed to the right estate. Hannah's father never thought of giving up, he pushed on quietly and Hannah followed meekly.
After introducing themselves at the gate and asking for Chike, they were passed to the senior gateman with whom they pleaded to help them locate the former owners of Rockwell villa at Joseph Olumide close.
Luckily, the senior gateman knew the couple that formerly owned the villa, but Hannah corrected him, saying that the owner they wanted to see was "a tall, rich young man that's fair-in-complexion". Her father promptly told her to shut up and asked the gateman to alert the couple to their presence.
Minutes later, the couple, through the gateman, replied that they had no knowledge of any Hannah Okeke or her father, but that they were free to come in and state their business. Hannah's father thanked the gateman and quickly made his way to the couple's new residence with his daughter in tow. They were admitted by a beautiful young maid who showed them in to the sitting room. Hannah sat down on a sofa, but her father paced about angrily, still clutching his long cane.
Moments later, the long-awaited couple stepped in. They were old and wealthy-looking, but as hard as she tried, Hannah could not find a trace of resemblance to Chike that would have made her believe they were his parents.
"Mr. Okeke, is it?", asked the woman as she and her husband took their seat.
"Yes," replied Hannah's father. "Mr. Aloysius Nnamdi Okeke. This is my daughter, Hannah Okeke. Let me not waste your time; I will go straight to the point. We're looking for a young man named Chike who was living in your old mansion at Joseph Olumide close. Do you know him?"
The couple, who had been a little surprised at Mr. Okeke's impatience and anger, now looked at each other with a confused expression.
"Excuse me, Mr. Okeke," the woman said. "How do you know we once lived at Rockwells and what do you want with Chike?"
"Oh," Mr. Okeke blurted, smiling bitterly. "Please forgive me. I am understandably angry, but it's all between my daughter and this boy, Chike. They were having a forbidden affair and the idiot had the indecency to be impregnated by the said Chike."
"Oh," the woman ejaculated, clearly surprised. "That's serious. Young woman, what's the surname of this Chike?"
"I don't know," Hannah replied softly, her head lowered in shame.
"Will you open your stupid mouth and answer them!", Mr. Okeke roared, dangerously wielding his long cane.
"It's okay sir," the man admonished. "We heard her. It's okay. My wife and I, we have a Chike in our employ. He's our houseboy, le..."
"Eh?", Hannah ejaculated, shaking her head vigorously and rising to her feet. "No o. Papa, this is the wrong place, we..."
"Will you shut up!", her father roared again, forcing her to resume her seat. "My brother, please call the idiot."
"It's okay," the man said and smiled in understanding. "Chike! Chi..keee! I don't know why this boy doesn't hear when his name is called. Please do sit down, sir."
"Thank you," Mr. Okeke said and took his seat for the first time since he came into the house.
"You see," the man began, "before my wife and I left for London few months ago, we dismissed all of our domestic staff, but left only Chike to take care of the mansion since he had nowhere to go and also because stealing was never one of his many vices. Our intention was that on our return, we would sell the mansion and take up residence here since my wife likes it better here, so it's possible that Chike might have been up to some mischievous acts while we were away... it won't be the first time, but it will surely be the last. Let's hear from the horse's mouth. Chikeee!"
Hannah still could not believe all what was said about her lover. Chike could never be a houseboy. Never! There must be some mistake somewhere. But her doubts were finally laid to rest when she saw someone running into the sitting room, wearing a dirty singlet and an apron. It was her Chike!
"Chike!", she exclaimed in shock as she jumped to her feet.
Chike heard her quite alright, but he simply ignored her and turned to his master.
"Sir, you called me."
Hannah was still staring at him with her mouth wide open while her father looked angrily from one to the other, shaking his head mournfully.
"Yes, I did," answered the man. "Do you know this young woman?"
Chike didn't even glance at Hannah before answering.
"No sir," he said, with enviable seriousness.
He then proceeded to look her up and down like a buyer inspecting an overpriced second-hand item.
"I don't know her," he added. "In fact, I've never seen her before in my life."
"Eh?", Hannah gasped, before slumping to the floor, unconscious.