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“I will give you a clue. Someone you know too. Someone from school,” Chisom said. “Mrs. Amadife?” Nzo asked with excitement. He had com...

“I will give you a clue. Someone you know too. Someone from school,” Chisom said. “Mrs. Amadife?” Nzo asked with excitement. He had come to like his new teacher quite a lot. “No, a student.” “Well, you are going to have to tell me biko – please.” “It is someone in our class. With this, you should be able to guess right.” I have no clue, Chisom. There are over thirty pupils in our class. I reckon I’d have to guess at least twenty five times to come any close.” “But you have not even tried, Nzo!” “It could be anybody, Chisom.” “Your obstinacy is exceeded only by your obstinacy. It is someone that you like.” He was smirking by now. “And?” Nzo said, still looking lost. “Okay, I saw your class wife, Uzoamaka,” Chisom said as his smirk broadened. He enjoyed pulling Nzo’s legs. Nzo’s demeanor remained expressionless. “I see, where did you see her?”

“You are keen to know, aren’t you?” “You can keep your story, if you do not want to tell the rest of it.” “I know you are dying to know, so I’ll tell you. I saw her at the market yesterday. She was with her parents and elder sister, Akubataulo. Her father was pricing a goat. Interestingly, she asked after you, and when I told her I’d see you sometime in the week, she said to extend her regards to you.” “Thanks.” “Is that all you have to say?” “I guess I should start dancing, perhaps shout my voice hoarse to please you.” “Well, she always asks of you, and likes to be around you. She might as well be your wife.” He was still enjoying every bit of tormenting his friend. “We will see her when school resumes.” “I heard you say we. She is not my class wife.” “So who is your class wife then? Ngozi?”

It was Nzo’s turn to make fun of his friend. Ngozi was much older than they were, and she always seemed to wear a frown on her face that was accentuated by her facial mark.  She was not what either boy would consider pretty in their young minds. “She likes to ask you questions in class. She borrows your notes and cross-checks her assignments with yours most of the time. Both of you might as well live together, I guess.” A hardnosed smirk lit up his face as he cornered Chisom. “So if Uzoamaka is my class wife, I do not mind. She is pretty. I am sure you’d like to have her for a class wife. Too late! You already have one, and as tiny as you are, if you misbehave, Ngozi, your class wife will beat you into the ground.” He said with strong emphasis on the word, Ngozi. “She just likes to check if her assignments are in order, especially after I had done well in the previous assignments; that’s all.”

“Smarty! You think you can fool me? You are the only person in class. How come she does not ask Josephine or Uzoamaka, or Patience? I will bring this to the attention of all the boys in class next term. I am sure they will be delighted to talk about the two of you.” Chisom was becoming uncomfortable. He knew the story would sell well should Nzo decide to peddle it in class. “Okay, let’s stop now.” He had imagined how Ejikeme and Onwuchekwa would run around the entire school making fun of him. “Why call up a truce now? Let’s talk about class wives. Hahaha!” He relished the apprehension he saw in his friend’s eyes. Chisom always cut an unflinching visage, so Nzo was delighted to see that he could really be flustered. “Next time before you start such a joke, you should remember that I might have some of mine too.” “You can stop now Nzo. We have had enough of that,” Chisom said concernedly.  They went off to play for the rest of the morning into the afternoon.

Ndee was flipping through television channels, when they returned. She went from Nigerian television authority (NTA), Enugu to the Anambra broadcasting service (ABS), Enugu. “Leave it on ABS Ndee!” Chisom shouted, echoing Nzo’s wish as well. Tarzan and the jungle boy, a hit movie with children across the country was airing on ABS. “I will let you two carry on while I go make lunch,” Ndee announced. The mention of lunch was delightful music to Nzo’s ears. His one stone had killed two birds – breakfast and lunch.

Like at artist at work, Ndee whipped and mixed things together. Within minutes, she had defrosted egusi soup from the freezer. Soon, she prepared garri.  The aroma spread to the living room caressed the boys’ nostrils. Somtochi and Chianyiemela, Chisom’s immediate older and younger brothers arrived in time for lunch. Somtochi had taken Chianyiemela to an amusement park; Polo field. “Nnoo nu! Welcome boys!” Ndee bellowed, delighted to see them both. She was fond of her youngest son, Chianyiemela. “I hope you had a great time Chii?” “I loved it mom. I was on all kinds of swings and roller coasters. Somtoo took me to the zoo, nearby afterwards.” After a plush dish of garri and egusi soup elaborately adorned with goat meat, Ndee went into the bedroom for a nap. Nzo, Chisom and Chianyiemela went to the backyard to clean up the dishes. Afterwards, Nzo announced it was time for him to go home. Chisom saw him off.

“Nzochukwu, I see you came to see Chisom, and you could not even stop by to say hello to me.” It was Ikemefuna, Nzo’s former bully. He lived a few doors away from Chisom’s apartment. He stuck his head out of their living room window, perhaps savoring the afternoon breeze. “Hello Ikem, kedu? (How are you?)” He replied, not sure what to say to him. Their relationship had been frosty since after the fight that earned Nzo his freedom. “I am fine thanks. So, what have you guys been up to?” “Not much, just playing I guess.” “Nzo came over to spend some time with me. We have been at my apartment most of the day. I am seeing him off. Do you want to join us,” Chisom offered.

 It was a calculated attempt to douse the tension. “Sure, do you mind if I get my mom’s permission to join you guys? “No, we don’t mind,” they echoed. He joined them shortly afterwards. The three of them walked down the street, taking a longer route towards Nzo’s apartment.  “Thank you for coming over Nzo. I will visit with you sometime next week,” Chisom said. “That will be great.  I had a great time. Please say thanks to your mom for me again.” “I am sorry for my past behavior towards you Nzo,” Ikemefuna said rather abruptly. Without hesitation, Nzo stepped closer and gave him a hug. “It is alright. I never meant to hurt you either. We can be friends now.” “Yes, we can,” Ikemefuna replied exuberantly. “I am pleased to have you both as friends,” Chisom added. “We too,” they both replied. “Okay, see you two soon then. I have to get home.” “Bye Nzo!” “Bye guys.”

It had been a lovely day. He had eaten two meals already; nothing could be better than that. But as he drew nearer to home, his heart began to pound stridently. He was sure that his parents would frown at his truancy. The consequences may not be as palatable as the meals he had at Chisom’s, but he would rather have breakfast and lunch and live with the consequences. He had to find a way to evade any punishments that he may have accrued from his disappearance for most of the morning and afternoon. Hopefully dad is not back yet. He left rather early in the morning, he thought. Mom will be a lot easier to deal with. He was running a number of possibilities in his head as he marched home.

Uzodika had been gone all morning. He barely slept last night and the one before. He was a very jovial and funny man, so it was easy to notice when he was troubled – whenever his jovial disposition vanished. A stress-induced look of worry was becoming pronounced on Uzodika’s face with each passing day. It was only a matter of days before his household ran out of food. He prayed most of the night, twisting and turning until the cocks crowed. Anxious about the impending starvation of his family, he got out of bed about six o’ clock in the morning, dressed up and left. He had gone to see a friend, Mazi Uwanya, also a native of a town near Ariam in Umuobo. They had been friends for many years.

He was considerably rich and popular in the Umuobo community in Enugu. He owned a construction company, which had become very lucrative. Mazi Uwanya had a parsimonious attitude to money, which was legendary among people who knew him.  He drove an old 1973 Nissan Datsun, which he maintained painstakingly. He repainted it every two to three years, and refitted the interior with a touch of finesse. He also had a second Nissan Datsun, a 1978 model that his wife used. Uzodika helped him acquire the plot of land where his company was located from the railway corporation. He had leveraged the favor repeatedly to get loans from Uwanya, who would hardly part with a penny unless he was sure to earn profit on it. His wife was just as thrifty. 
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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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THE TRIALS OF NZOCHUKWU - Episode 12 An African Literary Blog
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