Read Morass here.
Mimi ran to the back of her grandmother’s compound, her chubby frame covered with sand. “Mam-ma! Come and eat.” She carried her sand food to Mama, served on fresh green leaves.
Mama looked up from sieving raw pap. “What did you cook?”
“Eba and vegetable soup.” The four-year old beamed. “Taste.” She took a portion of the sand food and stretched toward Mama.
Mama pushed her bowl of pap just in time to avoid Mimi’s dripping sand. “Ha, Mimi my daughter. Keep it aside. I will eat it when your mother comes back from work.”
“Okay, Mama.” She ran off and Mama smiled.
Demi walked into the house later in the evening to pick up her daughter and Mama related the tale.
“She’s an angel, Demilade.” Mama smiled. “I’m glad God gave her to us.”
Demi nodded. “Yes, Mummy. I’m glad God gave her.” She peeped at Mimi who was fast asleep on the couch. “There’s—I want you to keep her for me, Mummy. I am going on leave and I want to travel out of town.”
“No, Mummy. I’m going to Uyo.”
“Don’t try to stop me, Mummy. I’m going. I already bought my bus ticket yesterday.”
Mama stared Demi down and when Papa came back from the landlords’ meeting he attended, could not convince her otherwise. They agreed to care for Mimi till she returned.
Demi did not tell her parents her plans but she knew they had a good idea what it was. It had been four years since she returned without her husband and with a gory story of deceit. Idem had married her a virgin, and loved her more than life. Yet he had lived a lie, deceived an innocent woman into following him all the way to Uyo, his homeland. She could never forget how Idem’s wife threw her out of their home while Idem stayed quiet inside the house.
How she found the strength to travel back with a two-month pregnancy over six hundred kilometres remained a mystery. But her parents had supported her all through. Her colleagues at her bank job received her with open arms. Slowly, Demi’s life returned to as much normal as being a single mother could afford.
Mimi looked exactly like her father, which made loving her harder. She was such a darling though, and the main motivation for Demi to seek revenge.
Her parents encouraged her to move on, explore other relationships but Demi would never let them know she had other plans.
Duru waited at the motor park when Demi arrived. He wore the same type of clothes Demi had always seen him wear, black denims, black t-shirt, black boots, a black worn leather jacket and he carried a black rucksack. Mama told her he had darkness behind his eyes. Demi moaned inward. Her mother would have a feat if she ever got to know Duru was going to Uyo as well, and to help Demi carry out her plan.
The journey took almost ten hours with two stops. Duru sat beside the driver and made no conversation with her even during the stops. She contented herself with her back seat and his silence.
She had booked a hotel online for both of them, and Duru, who boasted of having lived in Uyo for several years proved his mettle and called a taxi to take them to the hotel.
Duru was rendering a service and though what he asked her to pay nearly-cleaned out her savings, she was ready. And she had paid him half already.
She remembered Mama’s comments about him and smiled inward. Mama was right. Duru had a past no one dared inquire about. He was a go-to guy in Owena and had done one odd job or the other for nearly everyone.
His secretive attitude and mean demeanour made most people steer clear. He did his job, got his pay, and left you well alone.
On one of the days she had to work late, she’d returned home to find her door broken into. Fear gripped her and she had run to her parents’ to spend the night. On second thoughts, she’d called Duru, who did a lot of jobs for her colleagues. To her surprise, he came that night to her parents’ and insisted on fixing another lock for her.
Mama said she could never get his tall, rigid physique, set mouth and dark eyes out of her memory.
The hotel Demi booked was more luxurious than she imagined and more expensive than what she saw online. Duru loomed behind her till she paid and the receptionist gave them their keys. A porter led them to two adjacent rooms.
Duru waited outside the door while the porter made sure Demi’s room was alright. When the young man moved to the next room, Duru stopped him.
“I’ll be fine,” he said in a low deep voice.
Demi wondered why he stood at her door even after the porter had left. She was happy with the single room, and knew she would sleep well tonight. From the following day however, she feared the future.
Her voice of reason cautioned her again but the voice was now so strained and thin, she barely heard it.
She walked to the open doorway where Duru stood and stared into the room like it repelled him. “Is there a problem with your room?”
Duru licked his lips. “I don’t need a room.”
Demi arched her eyebrow. “But where will you sleep? Tonight?”
Tomorrow would take care of its own.
“I will go to his house tonight and study the environment. Tomorrow, I pick the child. He can stay with me wherever I decide—”
She couldn’t believe he was talking so casually about kidnapping Idem’s son on the corridor of a hotel. She pulled him in on reflex and slammed the door.
The room felt small with him inside. Demi wasn’t a small person except now she was so close to him. He made no move to put space between them and she took that initiative breathlessly.
“How can you be so casual about this?” She said in a harsh whisper.
He smirked. “If the boy is found with you, you’ll go to jail.”
“What about you? And I don’t want the boy to suffer.”
Duru narrowed his eyes. “Don’t worry about me or him. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to leave. You should take a refund for my room.” He headed to the door.
He turned. Demi hated his flippant attitude. She’d been shocked when she asked him if he could kidnap a boy for her and he’d accepted. The thought had matured in her mind after she discovered Idem was now a politician, and a local government chairman in his state. He’d not even made any effort to contact her or find out about her daughter. Her anger and bitterness against Idem was unfathomable.
“How will I contact you? How will I know—you’re safe?”
He smirked again. “I’ll be fine. And I will contact you.” He cleared his throat. “You’re here for vacation, right? Enjoy it.”
With that, he left.
Demi couldn’t sleep despite the fatigue of the journey. The following morning, she paced and waited for him. When the suspense became too much, she called his number but it rang out. For the first time, she thought of going back. She’d thought he would take the child from school or something and bring him here. She’d thought she would be part of the operation. She’d written a ransom note, making it clear who she was, and Duru had torn it into pieces.
“I’m sure you don’t want this traced back to you.”
She’d protested. “But how will he know it is me. This is for revenge not for money.”
He’d written a note instead. “If you love me, find me. Find us.”
It was brilliant, and she’d accepted. She won’t ask for money, and she won’t get any. After a week, Duru will return the child unarmed and they would leave Uyo. Hopefully, Idem should have lost some weight by then, and his chubby nasty wife should be sick to death.
Demi decided not to get a refund for the room just so no one else would take it. She panicked through the day and by evening concluded the whole plan was a mistake.
All the mean thoughts crossed her mind. Maybe Duru would fail, and be caught, and lead police to her room. She called his number again but it rang through. Where was he? She’d eaten very little throughout the day, and slept fitfully.
At close to midnight, a hidden number called her.
“Order for yourself a bottle of champagne. I have the twin girls. They are barely a year old. They cry like the devil and your ex-beau has already started panicking. It’s working, madam. Goodnight, and sleep tight.” He paused. “Check the local TV.”
Demi gasped. “Duru! Duru!” She stared at her phone.
A bubbly purr vibrated from her stomach through her chest and she fell on her soft mattress giggling. Idem has a set of twins? Wow! What if Duru got the wrong family? Was he safe? Where would he have kept a set of twins who cry like the devil?
“How does the devil cry? How will he feed them? Duru? Oh my.”
Demi hugged her pillow and gave in to tears. Why was she crying? She slept off thinking about Idem’s betrayal.
The ringtone of Demi’s phone was new and she probably overslept. She searched blindly for a moment before she caught her phone and picked the call.
“Overslept?” Duru chuckled. “Too much champagne.”
Demi jerked to a sitting position. “Where are you?”
Cries of babies were heard in the background. “With the babies.”
Demi smiled. “I know. Where?”
“Did you watch TV?”
She let him off avoiding her question. “No. I—”
“Watch. It’s all over the news. With our ransom note.” He chuckled and hung up.
Demi switched on the TV and truly, the first channel had the face of the twins. They looked so adorable. What had Duru done? Demi stared at the picture of the twin girls. They were identical, and reminded her of Mimi at that age. Her anger was renewed and all guilt flew out the window. Yes, this was it.
The picture was replaced by a newscaster and Demi realized the volume was down. She lunged for the remote control. The lady on the screen read the note and pleaded with the criminals to free the twins, and contact their parents.
Chubby Mrs. Idem, who looked even chubbier than the last time she flung Demi out of her house came on screen, with her face tear-streaked. “We are willing to pay anything. Anything—”
Demi switched off the TV and ordered a heavy breakfast from room service. Her vacation just began.