Charles Adams took a quick glimpse at his appearance in the standing mirror nailed to the cream wall of the master bedroom. A seventy-year-old six feet tall dark broad shouldered man clad in an Ankara outfit stared back at him. He had aged slowly; some say he looked as if he was in his mid-sixties. That was acceptable, but those who say he looked like he was in his fifties were liars. He had lived a good life, retired as a renowned medical doctor, although he still consulted for people once in a while, married to an extra-ordinary woman who bore him three wonderful children. He was truly blessed.
Martha, his first daughter and first child was doing very well in the banking industry, but her unmarried status casted a depressing pitiable shadow on her chains of success. She would be forty in two monthsâ€™ time and he wondered how she fared emotionally. Whenever she paid them a visit, she always put up a wall labelled 'I am fine', painted with a plastic smile that barely reached her hazel eyes.
|Razor Tongue By Serah Iyare|
Dorcas, his second daughter and last child was married with two children who were in their teens. She was thriving in the event planning business and her husband was a famous professional photographer. The likes of TY Bello and Co. She and his wife had planned the party and her husband's assistants were assigned to capture the day in pictures. Perfect, wasn't it? Nice to have these set of people in the family.
John, his only male and second child was also married; his beautiful wife did not conceive until after Dorcas had, had her two children, although John got married before her. He and his wife were doing well, lost in the work and things of God. The young man could have done better things with his life. He had a PhD. in International Relations, Masters in Law, and BSc. in Political Science. His qualifications were wasted in the pursuit of an unseen God, not that he didn't believe in God, but, should one stop one's life and jump into, into...
What did John call it? Ministry, Calling? Yes, that is exactly what he called it, calling, divine calling to be precise.
Charles shook his head, dark brows knitted in a frown. If they were doing God's work, why did God cursed them with such a trouble-maker of a child? Was Sheila their thorn in the flesh? That young woman could drive any sane person crazy with just a single word. He shivered at the thought.
"Young man! Don't tell me that you are not yet ready. Everybody is here!" His wife's voice drifted into the room from the hall way. She made her way into the bedroom and found her husband chuckling. One brow raised, "What is so funny?"
Charles walked up to her and pulled her close, "At seventy, you still call me a young man." Nnese tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip.
"No matter how old you are, you will always remain my young man," She winked, "We have guests to attend to."
He sighed with resignation. It was his birthday, a few family and close friends were celebrating with them. He would have preferred an uninterrupted day alone with his wife, but, a small party had already been planned for him before he could voice his desires.
His dark brown eyes drank his wife's petite frame. At five feet six inches, curvy hips and abundant bosom, she could carry herself even at her age. Her chocolate cream complexion hasn't lost their glitter.
"Charles... Guests are waiting."
"Queen Nnese..." He took a bow, "Let us attend to our hungry guests."
She could hardly stop the laughter that bubbled through her. Her husband could be comical when he wanted to be. That was one of the reasons why she married him.
Charles and his wife headed for the garden. The moment they walked in, everyone seated got to their feet and started singing, "Happy birthday to you..."
Martha and her siblings went over to their parents and hugged them, followed by their spouses and children. Charles thanked everyone for coming and the party commenced.
Sheila joined her cousins at a table. She noticed that Edidiong and Boma came along with their dates. She wondered why they always bring someone new to every family event. Their relationships barely lasted a month. Why bother? She wasn't interested in dating anyone at the moment. At five feet nine inches, with a slim and well curved body, she had, had her share of admirers. But not until she graduates at twenty-one, she will not venture into any relationship.
"Sweet heart, have you met my cousin?" Edidiong was speaking to her date, but was staring at her. Sheila met her gaze, the look in her eyes spelt mischief and she could discern that her cousin was up to no good. She had promised her parents that she would avoid squabbles, but if anyone brings trouble her way, she was more than ready to fight back.
"Her name is Sheila and she is the black sheep of the family," She and her date started to laugh. Sheila decided to ignore them.
"Cat got your tongue?" Boma addressed her. He and his date were also laughing.
She noticed that they were beginning to attract attention. If she allowed her cousins to go on with their ridiculous comments, she might lose her temper. She decided to end the whole tirade once and for all, before it got out of hand.
She pointed at their dates, "If both of you think they are serious about you, then you better think again," they all stopped laughing, " These two cousins of mine bring a different date to every family function. I have photos in my phone as proof."
Boma and Edidiong starred at her in disbelief. An uncomfortable silence settled over them. Boma's date picked up her bag and got to her feet. He reached out for her hand, but she used her bag to hit him and headed out. He got up and hurried after her.
Edidiong's date pushed his food away and dabbed his lips with a napkin. He drained his glass in one gulp and pushed his chair backwards.
"Sweet heart..." He ignored her and left the table without a word. Edidiong shot her cousin an angry look, "You will pay for this!" She threatened and ran after her date.
Mission accomplished! Sheila sighed and sipped at her drink. Martha saw her niece and nephew running after their dates. She wondered what was going on. She turned and saw Sheila smiling sheepishly. She left her seat and approached her, "When are you going to stop this unpleasant habit of yours?"
Sheila looked up at her aunt, wondering what she was talking about.
"Were you born to make everyone around you miserable?"
Boma and Edidiong returned without their dates. Their countenance brightened when they realized that their aunt was scolding their cousin.
"Must you wave your wand of despair at every family function? Can't you be normal just for once?"
Sheila placed her glass of chilled chapman on the table and stood, the only way to avoid creating a scene was to leave. She eyed her self-righteous aunt who didn't even bother to find out what had happened before shooting blames and insults.
"Is it me you are looking at like that?"
Without a word, head high, shoulders raised, Sheila walked out of the garden. Martha starred after her in mad rage. "Look at this little ingrate..." She marched after her niece.
Boma and Edidiong exchanged glances, trouble brews for Sheila. Both teens went in different directions to alert their parents and Sheila's parents.
Sheila headed for the main house. Getting away from her aunt was the best thing to do at the moment. She does not want to cause a scene at her grandpa's birthday bash. She had also promised her parents that she would be a 'good girl' today. She doesn't want to disappoint them. But her aunt was bent on making her break that promise. That woman should go and get a life. How old was she anyway? Thirty-nine going to forty, what a shame.
Her aunt's shrill voice stopped her in her tracks. She turned around and saw Martha marching towards her. What was wrong with this woman? Why was she following her? The devil himself must have sent her.
"How dare you walk out on me?"
"Why don't you just leave me alone?" She turned and started to walk away. Something was definitely wrong with this woman.
"Sheila! Get back here!"
She ignored her and made her way into the house. She went straight to the living room, switched on the T.V and settled on the sofa. Her aunt's attitude was beginning to get to her. The farther she was from her, the better.
Martha walked in fuming. It was high time she taught her niece a lesson or two. She has had enough of her rude and unpleasant attitude. The whole family has had enough. She wasn't getting off easily this time. She picked up the T.V remote and switched it off.
"Aunt Martha, that was uncalled for."
"You are a very silly girl. How dare you walk out on me? Who in God's name gave you the audacity to disrespect me? You lack home training. Your parents are not... I repeat, they are not capable of impacting good morals into your thick incorrigible skull. "
Sheila got to her feet, her aunt was beginning to get on her already fried nerves, "Please don't bring my parents into this."
"Why not? They have failed in their responsibility. How old are you? Eighteen? Look how you have turned out. Uncultured, manner less, spoilt..."
"Please, please... What do you know about responsibilities? You are not married, talk about having a child of your own. Here you are talking about what you do not know."
Martha hit her across the face, "Don't you ever, ever in your lazy life, speak to me like that again. How dare you?"
John and Eureka walked in. Boma and Edidiong had informed them that Sheila was being scolded for being mean to them. They had hoped that the day would end without squabbles, but it seems that, that was not going to happen.
"What is going on here?" John approached them. Her mother took a seat on the settee.
Sheila barely acknowledged them, her surprised gaze was trailed on Martha's angry ones. She could not believe that her aunt had slapped her. This woman has gone too far.
"Martha what is wrong?"
"I am disappointed at both of you," she eyed John, then Eureka.
"Martha, this is not the time to trade insults..."
"Insults..." She glanced at Sheila, "You should have been here when this 'small thing' painted me blue and black."
Sheila attempted to hit her, but her father held her back.
"Sheila!" Her mother jumped to her feet, "What has come over you?"
"Leave her alone John. Let her try it. I will show her the stuff I am made of."
She eyed her aunt and released her hand from her father's firm grip. "You are going to regret this."
She met her father's gaze, he didn't look too happy. She turned to look at her mother, she was frowning. She dreaded the long lecture they would give her when they get home.
"I don't care what happened or who is at fault. I want you to apologize to your aunt this minute."
Sheila eyed her father, she can't and won't apologize to her aunt. Why should she? They were not here when the witch slapped her.
She turned around and headed for the door. Eureka's jaw dropped in astonishment. John sighed, God, what did I do wrong?
"Can you imagine? Look at your daughter. She has gotten out of hand. Both of you need to do something about her," she eyed them again, "... something fast."
John and Eureka exchanged glances. What else can they do but to continue praying and talking to her. What else can they do but to wait patiently for her to change. After all, she was their daughter, their only child, and they loved her regardless of her faults.
John and Eureka sat opposite Sheila in the sitting room. They wanted to have a word with her before they head to Sheraton hotel where Martha was having her birthday party.
She turned forty a few days ago and had decided to throw a party and celebrate with her family and a few friends and colleagues.
She hopes her parents won't talk at length. She wasn't sure if she could sit and listen to them for more than an hour. There was a time they spoke to her for three long hours! She thought she was going to go mad that day. At times, she wonders why parents like giving their children lectures.
"We have beaten this same issue to a pulp. I am tired of talking about it. We are your parents and we love you, but, we will not tolerate this senseless attitude of yours, " her father's stern gaze drilled into her blank ones.
"Must you reply anyone, I mean, anyone that insults you? Must you retaliate whenever someone offends you? Why can't you let peace reign in your relationship with people?" Her mother's angry tone wasn't lost to her.
Everybody including her parents feel that she has a bad attitude. But, they don't understand. A long time ago, she had decided that she won't allow anyone to take her for granted.
Whoever brings trouble her way must be prepared to fight a war. She can't just sit back and allow people to walk all over her. She was not a weakling.
"You used to have good friends at school. But where are they now? You have driven all of them away with your brazenness. You are going to graduate from school soon, aside from getting a certificate, you are supposed to build meaningful relationships. This world is a small place. You can meet anyone anywhere."
Sheila looked away. What does her father know about her friends? Ex-friends since the beginning of the second semester. She hopes their lecture will end soon. What time was the party supposed to start?
"As a born again Christian, you are not representing Christ at all."
She rolled her eyes. Here we go again. Trust her mother to bring God into the conversation. God himself is not stupid. Didn't he say an eye for an eye in the Old Testament?
Although in the New Testament, Jesus said, if someone slap you, one should turn the other cheek. Hogwash! That is being chicken-hearted. A very dumb response to an aggressive action.
She believes in God and all that, but, at times, following biblical principles was suicidal, especially in this age and times.
"Are you listening?"
Sheila shifted in her seat and avoided looking at them directly. Why won't she be listening? She has ears, and the last time she checked, they were working perfectly. John and Eureka exchanged glances.
"It is your aunt's birthday, we hope today will end in peace," her mother eyed her.
A frown creased her brows. Peace? Of course, as long as no one antagonizes her. Do her parents think she goes about looking for trouble everywhere she goes?
"We have been labelled with bad names among the entire family because of you."
Her frown deepened.
"Just try and avoid trouble today."
Her parents got to their feet. Sheila crossed her arms against her bosom.
"I will stay back."
Eureka placed her hands on her hips, "Young woman, pick up your bag and let us go. I am not in the mood for any of your tantrums. It is your duty as a member of the Adams family to attend all the family functions, except if you are sick. Are you sick? Answer me!"
Her mother rarely raised her voice at her, except when she has lost her temper. Duh! She was also upset too. She doesn't like when people assume things about her.
John placed a hand on his wife's shoulder, "It is okay darling."
Sheila picked up her bag and stormed out of the sitting room. Everybody should just avoid her at the party. If anyone dares attempt to upset her, heads will roll.
Eureka collapsed in her husband's arms, "I am tired honey. I am so tired. That young woman... I am at my wits end."
"I know love. I know. God never fails," he held her closer.
Sheila and her parents walked into the party hall. They scanned the room and sighted Martha at a table conversing with her friends. Her parents approached her while she followed them in slow deliberate steps.
"Happy birthday big sis," John gave her a peck on the cheek. She chuckled and leaped to her feet.
"Oh John... Thank you," they hugged briefly.
"How does it feel to be forty?" He winked at her.
"Well... I feel great."
Eureka pulled her into a warm embrace, "So happy for you."
Sheila watched them at a fair distance. She felt like walking away, she had not forgotten being slapped by her aunt. The witch must pay! Although God said one should forgive as He has forgiven, she cannot let go of the fact that her aunt had raised her hand against her.
Her parents had never hit her, no matter how angry they were. May be she will just turn around and walk away. She will probably find somewhere to sit and wait till her parents were ready to go home.
"Sheila..." Her mother's call interrupted her thoughts. She blinked and noticed that her aunt and her parents were all looking at her. But it wasn't just them, everyone at the table were also watching her.
She noticed that her grandparents were at the table, her aunt, Dorcas and her husband, Imabong, with their children, Boma and Edidiong, were seated together with a few close friends and relatives.
What? Why were they staring at her? Did they want her to wish her aunt a happy birthday? Lord God! This is pure torture. Why should she? Was it compulsory? But she knew that if she didn't, her parents would fry her alive.
She cleared her throat and looked up at her aunt. The woman looked fabulous in her short white and black body hugging sleeveless dress. She cleared her throat again, "Happy birthday," she met Martha's expressionless gaze. " I... I... your dress is ... nice."
Martha turned away and pulled her brother and Eureka closer to the table.
Sheila bit at her lower lip. Can you imagine? The witch ignored her. Why in the world did her parents bring her here? She would have been contented if they had allowed her to stay back at home.
Her aunt reached out for the hand of a man seated beside her grandparents. He was clad in a white and black long sleeve shirt and black glittering pants. When he stood, someone gasped. He was not just tall, his broad shoulders and muscled chest were quite obvious.
"I will like you all to meet Daniel Oluwadamilere." He pulled her closer, "He is the man I am getting married to at the end of the year."
Despite the loud music coming from the speakers and the murmurings of the guests seated at different tables, a still like calm settled around Martha and her family.
Sheila took a good look at her aunt's fiancÃ©. He was easy on the eyes and he looked like he was in his early-forties. Her grandparents will be so happy for their first child. Finally, she would be getting married.
Charles grasped Daniel's right hand, "Welcome to the family son."
"Thank you, sir."
As if on cue, everyone at the table got up and started congratulating Martha and Daniel. Dorcas and Nnese were in tears, John pulled Daniel close and introduced him to everyone. Boma and Edidiong hover around their aunt, scheming how to get on the groom's men and bride's maids list.
Sheila watched them all, a plan was brewing in her mind. The intensity of its sure success warmth her from hair to toes. This seemed like the perfect time to make her aunt pay. The witch is going to harvest what she had sown. Her lips widened in a mischievous smile.
Daniel Oluwadamilare stood outside the party hall, gazing at the darkened sky.
"The moon looks beautiful, doesn't it?"
He turned around and when he saw Sheila, he smiled and his returned his attention to the sky.
"That smile speaks volumes. What have they told you about me?" She stood beside him. He remained quiet. "I know your type; you don't like dabbling into family matters... good choice."
Daniel slipped his hands into his pockets.
"What are you doing out here anyway... don't tell me you are already bored of Martha?"
"They were right about you." She turned to meet his expressionless gaze. "You have a very sharp tongue."
She burst out laughing.
"Have a good night Sheila," He turned to leave. She reached out for his hand. His questioning stare met her mischievous ones.
"Why don't you stay out here with me... for a little while..."
He pulled his hand away, wondering what she was up to.
" I want to know the man my aunt wants to marry."
Martha, Dorcas and Eureka sat away from the crowd. Most people had gone home, but a few family and friends were still around. Many of them were on the dancing floor, enjoying the diverse music played by the DJ.
"Where is your hunk?" Eureka winked at her sister-in-law. Dorcas started to laugh. She was so happy for her elder sister.
"My darling is receiving a phone call outside, come to think of it, he has been gone a while."
Dorcas and Eureka exchanged glances and started laughing.
"What is so funny?"
"You are worried about him already, welcome to the club," Dorcas winked at her elder sister.
Eureka and Dorcas giggled and tried to hold back the laughter threatening to rip their lips apart.
Martha sighted Daniel the moment he made his way back into the hall. Her face brightened and her lips widened in a big smile.
"Are you ready to leave?" He pulled her up.
"I... " She looked at her sister.
"Get outta here sis, we can party without you," Dorcas winked at her. Eureka nodded in agreement.
Martha met her fiancÃ©â€™s gaze, "Okay, let's go."
"Good night ladies," he smiled at them.
"Good night," Dorcas and Eureka chorused.
He led her out of the hall and they made their way to the car park. They met Sheila seated on the bonnet of Daniel's car and Martha had to restrain herself from yanking her off.
"Get down!" Her sharp tone wasn't lost to Sheila who grinned and made no attempt to step down.
"I have a birthday gift for you," She addressed her aunt and winked at Daniel who drilled her with an angry look.
"Get down from the car this moment!" Her voice rose a notch.
Her niece pointed at Daniel's breast pocket. He placed a hand on it and noticed that something was inside his pocket. His fiancÃ©e dipped her hand in and pulled out a silky pant. She gasped in shock and dropped it as if it had burned her fingers.
Sheila let out a throaty laugh. Martha looked at her, then at Daniel whose gaze was fixed on the underwear.
"Revenge is sweet," She winked at her aunt and stepped down from the car. Daniel met his fiancÃ©eâ€™s troubled gaze.
"I don't know how it got there... Honestly, I don't..." He looked at the underwear, then at Sheila.
Martha looked at her niece. She was trying not to think. She was trying very hard to block all the thoughts that had ravaged her mind since she pulled out the pant from Daniel's pocket. Oh dear God please...
"I told you, you were going to regret hitting me... " Sheila eyed her and started to walk away.
Did her niece put her underwear in her fiancÃ©â€™s pocket? Why did she do that? What is going on? What has Sheila done?
She halted and turned to face her aunt. The woman looked as if she had seen a ghost. Well, she brought it on herself.
"What is the meaning of this?"
She smiled, "Your so called husband-to-be has been a very, very naughty boy," She started to laugh, turned and walked away.
Martha faced Daniel. "Did you... What happened?"
"Nothing!" He tried to draw her close but she stepped away.
She slipped off her engagement ring.
"No, no, no Martha..." He refused to take it from her. She dropped it on the bonnet of his car. He reached out for her, but she slapped his hands off.
"Don't you dare touch me!"
"Baby... " He closed the gap between them.
"How did her pant get into your pocket?" Her pained voice tore at his heart. He began to shake his head.
"Baby... She... We didn't... Nothing happened."
Tears flowed down her face, her heart seemed to have stopped beating. Sheila has just messed up her happiness in the name of revenge. She felt like killing that niece of hers.
"Did... Did you touch her?"
He began to shake his head again, "No... Yes, not like I touch you..."
She turned around and started walking.
She ignored him and returned to the party hall.
He placed both hands on his head. He loved this woman more than the air he breathes. That niece of hers was trouble with a capital 'T'. How was he going to get out of this? Oh God! Oh God help me!
Martha walked into the party hall. She looked around through her blurred vision. Tears had gathered in her eyes again. She saw her parents seated with John, Dorcas and their spouses and children. The Dj had stopped the music and the remaining guests were taking their leave. She avoided them and approached her family.
"Is that Martha?" Charles noticed his eldest daughter. Everyone at the table followed his gaze.
"I thought she left... " Dorcas got to her feet. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw her sister's tears stained face and red eyes. Martha got to the table, drew out a chair and sat down.
"Sweet heart, are you okay?" Her mother reached out for her hand.
She remained mum and faced John, "This is the last time I am going to accommodate being in the same room with your daughter... "
Nnese and Charles sighed, what has their granddaughter done again? Is there no end to her menace?
Dorcas sat back on the chair, she looked around, all the guests had left. Good, they were alone.
John held his sister's gaze. Her countenance was heart breaking. If Sheila's actions had affected her to this extent, he was scared of knowing what his daughter had done. Eureka mumbled a prayer. Her heart was racing so fast; she could hardly hear herself.
"Your daughter slipped her pant into my fiancÃ©â€™s pocket... "
Eureka stopped praying. John glanced at his daughter, she was grinning from ear to ear. Nnese tightened her grip on Martha's hand. Charles and Imabong exchanged glances. Boma and Edidiong glared at their cousin.
"Daniel admitted that he touched her... "
"No!" Eureka's shrill echoed through the walls. John was torn between consoling his sister and strangling his own daughter. He remained motionless on his seat. Dorcas closed her eyes, her husband pulled her close.
"They... I don't know what... I... " Martha swallowed hard. "I can't go through with the wedding." She pointed a shaky finger at her brother, "I want your daughter to stay away from me... " She rose, Nnese released her hands, she could feel her daughter's pains.
Charles turned to look at his granddaughter. She was smiling! Anger began to brew inside him. What sort of a child is this?
Sheila met her father's gaze. His looks seemed to say, 'I am ashamed of you'. Was he? He has never looked at her like that before. She tore her eyes away and glanced at her mother who was crying as if she had lost someone. For a moment, she regretted what she had done.
Martha kicked her seat out of her way and headed out.
"Martha..." Nnese called out, but her eldest daughter disappeared into the night. She turned to her husband. "She cannot drive in that state..."
Imabong leapt to his feet, "I will take her home."
"I will come with you... the kids can stay with their grandparents," She hurried after her husband.
All eyes fell on Sheila; a mischievous grin was pasted on her face.
"Until further notice, I don't want to see Sheila at any family event." Charles pulled his wife up.
He raised a hand and she kept quiet. He turned to John.
"She has caused this family enough pain... "
"No... No... This is the height."
"Let us go," he beckoned to Boma and Edidiong.
Charles ignored his son and left the party hall with his wife and grand-children.
John glanced at his weeping wife, then at his unrepentant daughter.
Oh lord God almighty... Please show up. Show up now!
* * *