Extending the giant suitcase steel handle, I closed my bedroom door behind me for the last time. It had to be a bloody spiral staircase, I swore under my breath, panting to reach the floor below, the heavy load trailing behind me. Downstairs, I took one final look at the life I was leaving behind forever. Shirley’s Victoria Island mansion had been anything but a home, but where the road outside the bronze-plated gates would lead remained a mystery. I hadn’t even made arrangements to find another place, and I couldn’t continue to live this anywhere this luxurious. I’d saved enough to put down a deposit, but at Victoria Island’s skyrocketing prices, chance would be a fine thing. Maybe I could try the mainland where accommodation was reasonably affordable. Until then, I could stay in a moderate hotel whilst staying under the radar. The press would go crazy upon hearing the news of my fall from grace to grass, and I wasn’t sure I could take anymore criticism. Life had taken a turn for even worse since Shirley’s death—my abrupt dismissal from Bass, my sudden departure from the House of Horror, the fierce battle for Isaac…
Isaac was my life, and the Basseys were trying to snatch him out of his father’s arms, using their stinking money as bait. Not on my watch.
“Fabrice,” I called out to my former butler who sat on a bench outside the security booth, chatting with the security guard. “Aren’t you going to give me a hand here? Get off your lazy ass and call me a cab, now.” Both men stared silently before turning to face each other and bursting into uncontrollable laughter. “Are you laughing at me?” I roared. “You fucking bastards, you think you now have it easy because I’m leaving this place, eh?”
“I beg, go,” Fabrice answered. “I stay here, you go, I no help you.”
“‘I beg, go…’” I taunted. “I may no longer live here, but I can still take you down, so you’d better…”
“Faire taire, imbecile!” Fabrice’s heated reply required no translation, and the security guard muttered some unintelligible curse in Tiv.
“What did you say?” I smashed my fist into the security guards face, expecting him to shut his trap immediately. Too bad I’d picked on the wrong ex-military man that day. Before I could deliver another blow, the security guard landed a heavier punch in my stomach, sending me down to the gravelled floor, but he hadn’t finished. Neither had the rest of the domestic staff who heard the commotion from indoors, and within a second, the yard swarmed with every single househelp I’d offended, abused and belittled for years.
“Don’t talk to us like that!” Everyone treated me with respect, or at least feared me, none of them ever answered back for fear of losing their jobs. When did Patience, Isaac’s newest nanny who hardly ever opened her mouth, become their spokesperson? “Why should we take orders from a rapist?” She let out a chilling cackle. “You’re never satisfied—always complaining, always nagging, always implying we’re beneath you. Take away the house and the job, and you’re no better than us, as you’re about to find out. TV producer my ass, you’re just a rapist who got lucky, and now the whole of Lagos can see your true colours. You no longer live here, go. Other Bassey relatives are about to move in, so try keeping your dick in your trousers on the way out.” Patience’s supporters cheered wildly, and she strutted in front of their upturned hands, slapping each one in triumph.
“There’s no secret under the sun,” the family chef chipped in. “The person who put that letter on the internet deserves a medal for exposing you, hypocritical rapist like you…”
“Shut up!” I grabbed him by his lapels, knocking off his tall hat. “If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll…”
“Wetin?” growled a fearless houseboy, bending over the bench and comically thrusting his behind against my crotch to everyone’s amusement but mine. “Oya now, come fuck my nyash.” The domestic staff burst into another fit of raucous laughter as I released the chef and approached the houseboy who straightened himself up and clenched his fists with a vicious leer on his face. “Wetin, you fear? Come fuck my nyash, and I go show you pepper boku! Yeye man, see him head. Common ten kobo you no get, now you dey do shakara for house you no build. Who you be self? Come fuck my nyash, I go show you…”
I rammed my tightened fist forward, colliding with the cleaner’s smug face. He stumbled backwards, crashing at his colleagues’ feet, but sprung to his feet, ready to retaliate. He wasn’t alone. Arms and legs from all directions rained down on their downtrodden dictator now outnumbered and unable to take on the frustrated househelps army.
“What the hell is going on here?” A deep gruff put an end to the scuffle the moment they tossed my battered body into an open gutter. “Royal Rumble is over, get back inside, all of you. I’ll take it from here,” he added, winking mischievously. The staff obeyed without a word, making no effort to disguise the satisfied smiles they exchanged with each other, and I cast a dangerous glare at Patience who spitefully pulled down her lower eyelids and stuck her tongue at me.
“Someone remind me to give them a raise, they have more guts than I thought,” Etim remarked after they left. “Uncle Hogan asked me to make sure Shirley’s valuables didn’t mysteriously make their way into your suitcase, but I never expected the staff to beat the living shit out of you. So tell me, Titus…Jide…whatever your name is…how does it feel to return to the gutter where you truly belong?”
Etim Bassey. From the moment he refused to shake my hand after Shirley introduced us at a Bassey family dinner, no-one expected us to become bosom buddies. He never let me forget my own poverty-stricken upbringing, and would probe me with insensitive questions regarding my past. Etim had zero patience when it came to children, and regarded Isaac as nothing more than a pest. Trust Chief Bassey to trust that son of Satan to handle his affairs.
“I’m glad you’re leaving with just one suitcase. Just as well, considering you elbowed your way into Shirley’s life with nothing,” he gloated. “I’m surprised the suitcase is that big, considering you have nothing. Then again, those forged credentials of yours must weigh a ton.”
“Don’t you insult me, Etim!” I lashed out. “Just because I’ve left the house doesn’t mean I can’t buy a decent shirt for myself, and for your information, I earned a decent salary with Bass. I’ve left this house, so go ahead, do your victory dance, but keep in mind the courts only awarded your family temporary custody of Isaac until the final hearing, and I don’t care what that test says, because Isaac is my child, you hear me? The case may drag on, but…”
“Stop deceiving yourself, Isaac is a Bassey, not an Okoroafor,” Etim snickered. “And the judge won’t award custody to a rapist like you.”
“I’m warning you again, do not insult me,” I hissed. “Anyone can forge anything…”
“Yeah, you’ll know that because forging’s your demographic…”
“…and I’m telling you right now, that note the office staff hung on the notice board was forged.”
“Oh yeah? You know, I’ve never been the superstitious type, but from what I gather, you couldn’t even bring yourself to swear on Isaac’s life to prove your innocence, could you?” Etim threw his head back in laughter. “Look at you—no house, no prospects, no future. Your only ace was marrying Shirley…”
“I never wanted to marry her, I was forced!” I exploded, fed up of everybody accusing me of hooking up with Chief Bassey’s only child for monetary gain. Couldn’t they give it a rest? “Your uncle’s thugs dragged me into his home, and he threatened to make me pay for the rest of my life if I didn’t marry his spoilt child. She tricked me into her bed and got pregnant because she wanted a husband, and time wasn’t on her side. She was desperate for a man to call her own, and the asshole happened to be me.”
Etim slowly clapped his hands in an exaggerated fashion. “Finally, something we both agree on—you are an asshole! We Basseys head a media corporation that includes a news channel. In other words, we are the news—even the president can’t take a shit in Abuja without us catching a whiff from miles away. We know everything about you, and I mean e-ve-ry-thi-ng. We know how you loved to pick girls and dump them, the same way you tried to dump Shirley. Even before you forged your way into university, you couldn’t keep that filthy weapon in storage.” Etim glared at me from head to foot. “You only claim to love Isaac because you think he’s your son, but that’s just plain stupid. You’re just pretending you actually give a shit because his mother came from an upper-class background. Unlike Nkiruka Nwankwo.”
I nearly choked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“Like I said, we know everything about everything. We did our own little research when Shirley got pregnant, and all we could come up with was your miserable ghetto roots in Aba, your less-than-impressive school records, and don’t get me started on that flop video you released with those equally wretched wannabes years ago, but this? Had we know you’d abandoned your own flesh and blood in search of a bigger meal ticket, Uncle Hogan would have thought differently about letting Shirley marry you. You got that girl pregnant, tried forcing her to get rid of the child, then scarpered off before anyone could blink, leaving the girl to raise her child alone. That’s right, she kept the child, and I feel sorry for the kid. Imagine bearing an uncanny resemblance to a rapist daddy…”
Nkiru hadn’t crossed my mind in years. I had a son? Another son? Surely this had to be a joke?
“You can’t deny you knew this Nkiruka woman, can you?” Etim revelled in watching me squirm uncomfortably, and chortled in my face. “No need for another blood test—that kid is the dead spit of you through and through. Guess it runs in the family, eh? Man meets naïve schoolgirl, schoolgirl falls hopelessly in love, man vanishes after fertilising her, kid grows up without a daddy,” he gloated, interjecting with another manic chortle. “Face it, Okoroafor, you’re a loser like your father before you, but if you think you can pollute our bloodline with your ghetto genes…”
“Ghetto genes?” Who did this ass-licking pretender think he was fooling? As if he actually cared about Isaac. “I don’t care what you say, Isaac is my child, do you hear me? Mine. I’m his father, and I don’t have to fly him to Jo’Burg for lunch every other day, or buy him the latest X Box to prove my devotion. I’m his father, and the judge will realise you’re spoiling him for nothing…”
“Are you really that stupid?” Etim replied. “You’ve never seen your other son once. Actually, let me rephrase that—you’ve never seen your actual son once, and everyone who attended EU with you remembers how you used to love ‘em and leave ‘em. I don’t know, maybe you have some other hidden bastards out there; that doesn’t look good to a jury, does it? Enough of all this bullshit, go and find your real child, and leave Isaac alone because he’s not yours, and never will be…”
A scathing slap silenced him, and I grabbed him by his collar, nearly cutting off his air supply. “Don’t you ever talk about my son that way, ever.”
“You’re going to kill me for telling the truth?” Etim wheezed. “Go on, kill me, see if that helps your chances in court.”
He had a point. I spotted a few servants watching our scuffle from the other side of the compound, and released Etim, forcibly turning his head to face mine. No doubt they would gladly act as witnesses during a murder trial if I finished the bastard.
“What do you mean ‘telling the truth’?” I demanded.
“I meant exactly what I said. You want to know how I knew? Shirley’s best friend Victoria Kuku revealed to Uncle Hogan what she’d been told years ago. Shirley was dating another guy in Bass FM Uyo when she first met you, but wanted you all to herself—whatever she was smoking that day, I’ll never know. When she got pregnant, she wasn’t sure who the father was, but for some bizarre reason she claimed it was yours. Take a look at Isaac, does he look anything like you? He isn’t as thick as you, thank God, and we now know we know the Bassey bloodline is safe.” Etim’s frenzied laugh echoed around the compound. “Think I’m lying? Catch ya in court! You’re a fraud, a rapist, a runaway father, and a 41-year-old freeloader with nothing to show for your pathetic life apart from failure…after failure…after failure.” He emphasised his words with a finger click in my face. “Take you failure ass out of here, and never come back. Do it now, or I’ll rally in the troops. Look at you, always thinking you’re better than everyone else including the servants when the truth is you’re all cut from the same cloth, but you just got lucky. OUT, NOW!”
“I’m going, who wants to stay?” I stooped to unzip my suitcase for another shirt to wear; the one I wore looked too tattered and bloodstained to not draw attention from concerned individuals, although chances were most would walk on without giving a hoot, especially if they recognised me now all of Lagos had read Doris’s letter. “I’m going, have the stupid house to yourself…”
“Excuse me?” Etim slammed his foot on the suitcase, making a dent on the lid. “What do you think you’re doing? If you want to change shirts, leave the compound first.” Etim grabbed the case and jerked his head at the security guard who was only too pleased to comply with his new master’s orders. “Gowon, open that gate!” Before I could fight back, Etim threw the suitcase into the street, contents strewing across the dusty road. “I said leave the compound. Fabrice!” he called loudly. “Fabrice, Essien, Arit, Patience… Throw this parasite out, and lock that gate. He caused Shirley’s death, but thinks the front yard is his changing room? Hell, no!” He lowered his voice to a cold whisper. “We could meet again in court, but we all know how that’s going to end with all the odds stacked against you, so you might as well not bother showing up. Bye, rapist ghetto rat!”
My former servants gathered round again, packing more fire in their bellies, gearing for further revenge. “If you guys touch me, I’ll fuck you up so bad, you’ll never mop another floor or scrub another toilet for the rest of your miserable lives, understand?”
“I’m the one with a miserable life?” Patience sneered. Her male colleagues grabbed my arms and legs and threw me outside the gates.
Now I knew exactly how Doris Duru felt when Mex Orlando did the same thing in our student flat eleven years prior…
“Yes, go!” Fabrice looked down at me from my spot in the open gutter. “Vas en enfer, sale violeur, fuck you in de eye!” The gates slammed, and I heard the household staff chanting rhythmic abuse directed at their former leader, but their triumph was the least of my worries.
Isaac wasn’t my son?
I had another son?
© 2019 Okoro Dedeh, Tami. All rights reserved
Author’s note: Did you read the previous chapter?