Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - clutching her bleeding shoulder, evade any gunshot, Matthew, the hospital lobby, number, phone, liver and kidneys are badly damaged, wanted to poison you, God, far reaching changes, the ultimate player, ‘I will always love you’ by Whitney Houston, immaculate in her spotless wedding gown.
PLAYING THE PLAYER - Episode 17
She aimed for his chest and moved to land a fatal stab. Madubuko squeezed his trigger just in time to hit Mathew’s mother on the shoulder. The knife she had been holding grazed James’ shoulder and fell on the rock. A chilly wind landed on shore from the Atlantic Ocean. James cried painfully. Mathew’s mother fell backwards clutching her bleeding shoulder. Azubuike quickly began to climb onto the rock. Matthew grabbed the fallen knife and aimed at James. He wanted to finish the job. The other members of their cult group ducked, prostrating on the ground in fear at the sound of a gunshot. “Everybody lie down!” Madubuko yelled as he aimed at Mathew. Matthew bent over in an attempt to evade any gunshot aimed at him. He lifted his hand quickly and attempted to deliver a vicious strike at James’ chest. Madubuko fired again.
Silence followed the gunshots. Azubuike who was on the rock by now, hit the ground too, at the sound of the gunshot. His heart appeared to have stopped for a moment. Then, the silence was broken by the innocent cry of James. Thank God he is still alive, Azubuike thought as he scampered to his feet. He ran over and lifted James. There was blood on his shoulder. He was bare-skinned so the cold had been affecting him. Azubuike removed his shirt and wrapped it around his body. He pressed James against himself, pleased to be re-united with him again. “I am here now…I am her, stop crying,” he said to him. James seemed to remember him. Soon, he was no longer crying. Oghenekaro and the rest of the search team joined them. They called for police backup and picked up Matthew’s group. Matthew died shortly afterwards. He had been hit in the neck and bled to death. Matthew’s mother survived, but she was detained by the police while receiving treatment.
Azubuike rushed James to the hospital to get his shoulder stitched up in addition to receive a course of antibiotics to prevent his wound from being infected. He sat in the hospital lobby while James was being treated. He could hear him crying as his wound was stitched up. He felt sorry for him. “You look concerned,” a lady seated opposite him said. “My child is being treated inside and I can hear him crying,” Azubuike said. He did not want to go into the history of James and whose his real father was. “I am sorry to hear that. I hope he is not critically ill?” “No, he is not. He has a cut that needs to be stitched up. He should be alright.” “His mother must be proud of you.” Azubuike thought about what the lady had said for a moment. If only that were true, he thought to himself. They were alone in the lobby, so Azubuike opened up to her, impulsively. “Actually, he is not my son, so to speak,” he began. He went ahead and told the lady the story. While he was narrating the story, she moved closer out of curiosity. “You are taking responsibility for him? Even though you know he is not yours? And his mother cheated on you?” The lady asked after he had finished narrating his story.
“It is not the poor boy’s fault. He did not cheat on me. He did not bring himself into this mess. I feel like it is my duty to protect him. Besides, I have grown quite attached to him having thought he was my son for some time.” “You are a good man.” “I am flattered by you. I can’t really say that about myself. I hope I get there someday. So, what are you doing here?” “My only sister is in the theater having a baby. Her husband died some months back while she was carrying their first baby. Our parents are gone and we don’t have any other siblings. When my sister called, I had to travel to Lagos from Agbor immediately. She needs someone by her side now. I am praying that the delivery is a smooth one.” “I pray so for her too.”
Soon, two nurses emerged carrying James. He had stopped crying. Azubuike took him in his arms and introduced him to the girl he had been talking to. “Here is James, my son I guess.” “I am Imelda,” she answered with a smile. “My name is Azubuike, by the way.” “Pleased to meet you.” “Same here. You mind if I get your number?” Azubuike asked. Imelda rummaged through her bag for her phone. “I lost my phone some weeks ago, so I had to get a new number and I have yet to memorize it,” she explained. She dug up her phone and punched a few keys to access her new phone number. Azubuike was busy admiring her dark, long braids. Her eyes glazed like a beaming sun and her lips were simply luscious. When she smiled, warm dimples appeared on her cheeks. She was clearly elegant and seemed like a nice person.
They exchanged numbers and Azubuike left. By the time he reached the door, he found Folashade’s parents at the door. They were walking into the hospital. Her mother was teary. They both looked stressed. “Hello,” Azubuike said wondering what they were doing in the hospital.” “Hi,” they replied burying their heads in shame. “Is everything okay?” He asked them. They told him that Folashade was dying. “Is she here?” “Yes.” Azubuike carried James back into the hospital to see her. Folashade’s parents attempted to play with James as they walked to their dying daughter’s room. Azubuike could not believe his eyes when he saw her. She looked emaciated. Azubuike had specks of tears around her eyes. She could barely talk. “She could pass away any time,” the doctor explained to him. “Her liver and kidneys are badly damaged,” he added. “What did this to her?” Azubuike asked. The doctor began to explain that she had ingested poison while in detention, but Folashade mustered all of her strength and spoke. “I did…I did it to…to myself,” she said with difficulty. Her parents who had been talking to a lawyer about suing the police had their hands over their mouths.
“I am sorry, Azu. I wanted to poison you with the help of a policeman, Wale, but I guess…I guess God was watching over you.” She went on to tell them the entire story. The doctor was in total shock as was Azubuike. God, I will never depart from you again, Azubuike prayed silently recognizing how close he had been to death only for God to save him. “Please forgive me. Azu, please forgive me,” she begged him. “I forgive you, Fola. I pray God forgives you too.” Her parents were crying hysterically by now. Her mother went down on her knees and began to pray. “I pray…I pray that…that God forgives me too,” she muttered as a flood of tears descended down her shrunken face.
Azubuike held her hand and said a prayer for her. “Please take care…take care of him,” she begged him referring to James, who was unaware of what was going on. “I will. I promise you that. You shouldn’t worry about him,” Azubuike promised. “God bless you.” “And you too, Fola.” Later that day, Folashade passed away, leaving her parents brokenhearted. Azubuike rehired his former house help, who was pleased to be reunited with James. He returned to work and sought to put his life back on track. He was eager not to stray from God’s path afterwards.
“Hello,” Imelda answered recognizing Azubuike’s phone number. “Hi, Imelda,” he said. “I thought you’d never call me.” “Of course I was always going to call you. I have been very busy though. How was your sister’s delivery?” “Everything went well. I just returned to Agbor last night. I hope to visit with my sister and her child next month. They are both fine.” “I am pleased to hear that.” “How is James?” “He is doing very well.” “So, I was hoping to send you something by post, could I have your address please?” “Of course,” Imelda answered enthusiastically. She texted her address to him after they had spent nearly an hour chatting over the phone.
It was a bright Saturday morning. Imelda was happy to be home. Work had been very busy all week. She worked as a sales representative for Pfizer. She did not want to leave her bed all day. Then, there was a knock on her door. She ignored it. The knock came the second time and then the third. By the fourth time, she reluctantly dragged herself out of bed and walked to the door. She was still in her pajamas. “Azubuike!” She shouted. “Imelda,” he replied. “What brings you here? I thought you said you wanted to send me something?” “That something is me,” he said with a smile, handing her a bouquet of red roses. “Aww!! Red roses are my favorite.” “I am glad. Actually, you had mentioned that over the phone the other night.” “So you listen when I am yapping away. I like a man that listens.” “And I like a girl that lays her heart bare, beautifully.”
“You are very sweet. Please come in. I am still in my PJ.” “You look fabulous in your PJ.” “Now, you are being too nice. I don’t look fabulous in my PJ.” “If only you had my eyes to see what I see.” “I wonder where your eyes are going.” “Just here…they are going nowhere, Imelda. They are staying right here where you are.” She stopped, smiled and hugged him. “I am sorry; I am very expressive, both in words and action. I hug when I am touched, if you don’t mind. I like your power of expression and sense of humor.” “I have been thinking of you since that day. You made an impression on me. I don’t know why, but I am just happy to be with you and around you. There is a positive energy around you.” “And you too.”
About the same time on the other side of the Atlantic (London, England), Oluchi walked down the aisle in her father’s hand to the altar. She looked immaculate in her spotless wedding gown. Her makeup was pristine and her smile, angelic. Her joy was infectious and so was Bernard’s. When she reached the altar, she stood beside Bernard who could not take his eyes off her. “Bernard has asked to do something special for you before we commence the ceremony,” the pastor said. Oluchi was wondering what he had up his sleeves. He took the microphone, went down on one knee and did a soulful rendition of ‘I will always love you’ by Whitney Houston. He left Oluchi in tears when he was through. “You have ruined my makeup,” she teased. “I am sorry honey. I was only sharing my love for you.” “And I loved it!” “I am glad you do.” “Mommy, why are you crying?” Edward, one of the twins shouted. His voice was hardly audible, as he was still learning to talk, but the audience could make out what he meant, which left the entire church in a raucous laughter.
He too and his twin brother, Bernard Jr. began to laugh too. Chisom and Caitlin looked after the twins during the ceremony. “This is for you, Aunt Caitlin,” Bernard Jr. said during the reception. Music was blasting as people enjoyed food and drinks. Caitlin was trying pounded yam and bitter leaf soup for the first time. Chisom had suggested that she try it with her bare hands and she obliged him. She was just molding a ball of pounded yam when Bernard Jr. offered her a small black box with silver edges. “What is that Benny?” she asked him as she swallowed the ball of pounded yam, under the influence of rich bitter leaf soup. “You have to open it to see,” Bernard Jr. answered still holding the box.
Caitlin was struggling. Her right hand was covered in pounded yam, so she used her left hand to take the box. Chisom was playing with Edward, pretending not to hear the discussion between her and Bernard Jr. Caitlin managed to open the box with her left hand and a beautiful ring glistened at her. “It is from Uncle Chichom (Chisom),” Bernard Jr. said. Chisom turned, put Edward down and went down on his knees. “Will you marry me honey?” He asked. “Aww!!!” All the girls around yelled. Some were wiping tears off their eyes with their handkerchiefs. “Yes! Yes! Of course yes, I will marry you Chichom!” she answered, mimicking Bernard Jr.
Chisom and Caitlin married a year later. Azubuike tied the knots with Imelda two and a half years later. He had taken his time to get to know her well before proposing marriage. They both fell deeply in love with each other, and Imelda took special care of James as though he were her own son. Wale, the policeman who had tried to poison Azubuike was arrested, tried in court and sentenced to twenty five years in jail. Oluchi and Bernard grew stronger in love and had two more children. Oluchi had begun as a player, who was played all along by Bernard and Chisom. She had thought she was playing Azubuike as well, while Azubuike was playing her too, thinking he was the only one playing her. They both turned their ways and made far reaching changes for the better. Folashade was the ultimate player who was played for a while by Matthew. By persisting in her ways, she set herself up for death. She neglected God who watches over all things. Matthew and his mother also got a dose of what they had sown by neglecting the One who watches from above.
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