Kate spent the rest of her day in a semi-confused state. Shopping did little to clear her head, although the pleasure of spending money without feeling guilty did perk up her mood. Soon she had an assortment of clothes, shoes and books, some for her family in Lagos. However, during the car rides between the stores and boutiques where she went shopping, she had too much free time to worry over the things Imoh Itah had said that morning.
While she was still wary of accepting his apology, it had touched a chord in her. She couldn’t deny the possibility that he was being truthful. After all, it was true that he had been drinking a lot of alcohol since her arrival and he did have reason to be angry at his mother. Plus, if he truly had personal financial stress, that was enough to push anyone over the edge. She had decided to keep an open mind about him, but she would take his advice and trust no one. Not even him.
Also important, what conclusion had he reached about the incident at the pool? He had said he need to confirm some suspicions. Kate spent many minutes wondering what those suspicions were. Who was his suspect?
She cajoled the driver into taking her on another sight-seeing spree around the beautiful town of Uyo. Although some of the roads were dotted with an unusually large number of yellow tricycles, there were no real traffic jams, in sharp contrast to Lagos. John regaled her with stories of the beautiful Ibeno beach at Eket and she vowed to visit it before she left Akwa-Ibom. She would make memories of this beautiful place ,and who knew? Maybe in the future, she would return there, to sample a more peaceful life.
By late afternoon, she had returned home, struggling with bulging bags and jostling boxes, hoping no one would see her obviously excessive purchases. As luck would have it, she promptly bumped into Edikan and her mother on her way into the house.
Great. Just great.
Mrs Clementine Itah looked regal in expensive, yellow lace, impressively cinched headgear, and stiletto heels. Every fold in the stiff blue gele was perfect and the edges glittered with expensive stones. Her make-up was flawless, glittering lips and eyelids lending extra glamour to her look. Beside her was Edikan, in fresh-faced contrast. Her own lace gown demurely sheathed her growing curves and her feet were encased in blue, suede wedges. Her lips glistened with lip gloss as she beamed at Kate.
“I was looking for you, Kate.” Kate made an oomph sound as the teenager gave her a tight squeeze. “We’re going to my cousin’s traditional wedding. We wanted you to come.”
Kate’s eyes widened as Mrs Itah nodded in confirmation. “Oh, I had no idea. I would have stayed in, ma.”
Mrs Itah waved dismissively, and a whiff of expensive perfume followed the movement “Oh, its fine, dear. I should have told you yesterday, but things have just been…” she paused and looked at Edikan. “Eddy, go wait in the car. Make sure the gifts for your cousin have been placed in the car too.”
It was an obvious dismissal, but Edikan took it well. She rolled her eyes and gave Kate another quick hug before skipping out happily.
“She’s very excited, and mostly because of you.” Mrs Itah smiled at Kate’s surprise. “yes, Edikan is quiet ecstatic over the fact that you are her half-sister. She took the news of her father’s… indiscretion better than I expected, even better than the rest of us adults have.”
Kate smiled understandingly. “It’s only to be expected. It’s a lot to take in.”
Mrs Itah nodded, her eyes running over the numerous bags Kate was clutching, but there was no judgement in her eyes. Instead, her expression grew serious. “I talked to Imoh this morning and he told me about the accident at the swimming pool. Are you alright?”
Kate felt a lump in her throat as she nodded. Even though she was not convinced her hear-drowning was an accident, Imoh must have had his reasons for keeping their suspicions from his mother. But the tone of the question had moved Kate. The true concern in the woman’s tone brought her own mother to mind. Maybe she had been too hasty in thinking Mrs Clementine Itah was cold.
The woman seemed to read her thoughts. “I’ve not been as welcoming to you as I ought to be.” She raised up a hand to stop Kate’s protests. “It’s true. And it was because of my initial suspicion of your motives. Plus, unfortunately, I took to more alcohol than I should have, because of all the stress I was under. But I’m okay now, I think. I may need a little therapy but I’m fine.” Mrs Itah smiled down at Kate. “You’re Bassey’s daughter, in every way. You have his smile, kindness and patience. He made his mistakes and I made mine too, and you and Imoh got the short end of the stick. I apologize for that. I hope from this point on, things will be less tense between us.”
Kate was tongue-tied, but Mrs Itah didn’t seem to be expecting a response. She simply stepped forward and embraced Kate. “Welcome to the family. And be patient with us.”
Mrs Itah broke the embrace quickly and walked away, obviously hiding her own emotions. She threw a flippant comment over her shoulder as she exited the house. “Don’t spend all our hard-earned money though.”
The quip was obviously a humorous reference to the bags that filled Kate’s arms and Kate watched Mrs Itah step out the main door, overwhelmed. She had been able to bear up under all the antagonism she had faced since she had arrived at Akwa-Ibom state, but being accepted made her happy.
Maybe the Itah’s aren’t such a bad lot, Kate thought wistfully as she clomped her way upstairs, lugging her purchases behind her. The good feeling stayed with her until she unlocked her room, but when the door swung open, she noticed a note that had been pushed under the door.
The writing was twisted and gnarled, like that of a toddler. It reminded Kate of someone trying to write with their left hand when they were not ambidextrous. But more important than the quality of the writing was the contents of the note. Kate’s eyes followed the sprawling letters and her blood ran cold.
NEXT TIME, YOU’LL DIE.
Check back by 6:00pm for the next episode.