Later that night while we were having dinner, I decided to share my new discovery with everyone.
“Daddy, why didn’t you tell us that papa had a second wife?” I asked
“Second wife kwa? Who told you that?” he asked
“Ahn ahn, the boy that lives in that small house behind nau. The last son of papa’s second wife” I continued.
“Hian. There is nobody living in that house. You have come again with your mischief. Please don’t scare your siblings. First you were complaining about the food, now you’re coming up with scary stories” he replied in dismissal.
“Ekene will you shut up and stop being stubborn. Eat your food and stop scaring your siblings” my mum interrupted.
My parents never gave me a chance to talk. I felt adopted at this point. It was almost as if they hated me. I didn’t care anyway because I had someone to talk with now.
The next two days went very well for me. I wasn’t bothered about the food or the prayers anymore because I always looked forward to gisting with Peter. I would go there and stay for hours and then leave when I suspected that my mum was looking for me. The best thing about it all was that nobody ever noticed I was gone. I guess they were too bored or something. On the fourth day, during our conversations, I decided to ask about the old man I saw twice at the window and in front of the house. He told me that it was his sick uncle who was always asleep. After I asked this question, Peter suddenly became distant and quiet and I became uncomfortable and so I decided to leave earlier than usual and probably come back another time.
I told him I was leaving and he followed me and closed the door behind. I was walking out of the porch when I saw my dad.
“Ekene! What did I tell you about that building? Do you want to wound yourself? Are you stupid?” he said as he walked towards me. “What were you doing in that house?”
“Papa, I told you that grandpa’s son lives there, you refused to listen to me.” I replied “One fair tall guy stays there. His name is Peter. How come you don’t know him?”
“Peter? This girl are you sure you are okay? Come and show me the person” he said as we walked back to the house.
When we got there, I knocked on the door the first time.
I knocked the second time and to my surprise, the door fell off it’s hinges to the floor inside the house. This was odd, we stepped inside the house and it was like a dream.
The sitting room was full of logs of wood piled up at a corner, there were thick cobwebs everywhere. The floors made a squeaky sound every time we moved around. The furniture looked very old and worn out. There were rodents everywhere. I looked up and a part of the ceiling had fallen off leaving a gaping hole there. It was like the house had gone about 100 years into the future all of a sudden.
“B-but, I sat here, right here” I said pointing to the smaller couch. “Peter sat here. W-we were talking and eating. Just here.” I was confused.
“Hello, mama Ekene, please come to that old building behind our house now. Be fast” my dad said into the speaker of his phone.
“Ekene, Ekene, look at me.” he said as he placed his hand on his shoulder to steady me. “Describe this boy again”
“He was fair and tall and looked very familiar.” I said barely speaking out
“Is that all?” my dad asked. “Think well”
My mum had just stepped into the house.
“What’s happening here?” My mum asked
“That’s all I… wait, he has a black mole on his upper lip” I said suddenly remembering it. “I used to stare at it a lot. He has a mole”
On hearing this, my dad rushed out of the old house. My mum and I walked after him as he dashed into our house. When we caught up with him, he was in his room, trashing the whole place like he was looking for something.
“Daddy what are you looking for?” my mum asked.
“Hunnie, tell me let me help you.” she said again.
He pulled out all the drawers, raised his mattress, trashed his boxes and still didn’t find what he was looking for.
“The study!” he yelled out to himself as he ran into the study and pulled down all the books as we watched. He started searching the pile of books on the floor until he found what he was looking for. It was an old album I remembered playing with as a child. He flipped through the album and pulled out an old picture.
“Ekene come here. Is this peter?” My dad asked as he gave me the photo and there he was.
“Yes! This is peter! This is him! I knew what I was saying. Daddy you were just lying to me. This is Peter!”
On hearing this my dad slowly sank to the ground with his hands over his eyes. My mum who was confused, took the picture from me and sank to the floor too like she had seen a ghost.
“Daddy! Please what is going on! What is going on?” I asked in frustration.
“Read the inscription below the picture” He said without looking up.
I did, and it said:
Nwankwo P. Okorie 1921-1995 RIP
“That’s a picture of my father, your grandfather, before the war”