The Sunday Gentleman [Chapter 19]

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Ugomma joined Israel as he drove behind Ajayi.

Chidimma touched Arinze’s face with one hand, and it felt unusually cold. She could feel the slow burn beginning to scorch her limbs. “Arinze Okorocha!” She groaned immediately. “Stop the car, he isn’t breathing. Stop the car…” she screamed. She gulped and immediately put her hands on his chest, feeling it, she closed her eyes, tears falling down her cheeks. Her body felt like it carried its own fire pit. She ached with a dreadful bone weariness from her head to her feet. She began to scream so loud her voice echoed. Mr. Israel and Ugomma wondered why they had to stop the car, they stopped theirs too and ran after them, “ogini?” Ugomma asked when she saw the sudden agony on Chidimma’s face.

When Ugomma turned and saw that her brother looked stiff, she put her two hands on her head and screamed! “Jesus oooooooooo, odogo you can’t die Biko wake up!” She screamed and rolled on the floor.

Mr. Israel and Ajayi stood there, grief-stricken and mute. They were shocked and didn’t know what to do.

Chidimma shook Arinze’s body several times, but he was gone. He had died long before he was brought home and there was nothing she was going to do about it. She cried bitterly for several long moments until she was driven home. His body was still on her laps, she wouldn’t let the mortuary attendants take him away. “He will wake up, give him a few minutes, he will wake up.” She cried out. But his body was too stiff and he had to be forcefully taken away.

When Doctor Edem walked in, there were tears in his eyes when he saw Chidimma, sitting recklessly on the floor. “It’s a cardiac arrest.” He said.

 The house was already filled with sympathizers, Ugomma had to announce to the drivers and the security men that people should not be allowed inside the house again.

Ezinne had fainted over six times before arriving Lagos. She arrived with uncle Fidelis and a few men from the village.

They shrugged when it came to their mind that Arinze was gone.

“I spoke with oga this morning o. Just this morning.” Mr. David said as he shrugged.

Chidimma sat on the floor, her legs spread apart as Ngozi sat beside her, holding her hands together.

Mr. Ajayi whispered to the ears of Ngozi, alerting her that madam’s relatives were outside: Naomi and Ubokobong. She nodded at him that they should be let in.

Their eyes were filled with tears as they walked into the already crowded sitting room. Ubokobong carried Daniela in her arms, while Olufemi carried Daniel. Naomi settled immediately by the side of her cousin, she couldn’t look at her face. Everywhere became quiet, only the cries and sobs of Ezinne and Lebechi was heard.

“How did it happen?” Chidimma could hear Olufemi asking Mr. Ajayi.

“Oga call us this morning, he said he wanted to jog. And we were surprised because the last time oga jogged, we can’t remember sef. I have worked with oga for seven years, e never jog before. So, we got to Crown supermarket, just after Crest pharmacy and he paused and held his chest. ‘My heart, my heart,’  he was panting. Before we know am, he wasn’t talking again.” Mr. Ajayi said.

“Ewo!” Ugomma screamed, Putting her two hands on her head. “Onye nwuru? My own brother Arinze, the lion of our land! The father to the fatherless, the mother to the motherless, odogo, my own odogo? Chai!”

The cries were unending.

Policemen came around in over seven Black Marias, they came with pressmen who had come to enquire about Arinze’s demise. A few questions were asked and written down and even after the second autopsy was done, Doctor Edem still announced it was cardiac arrest.

“My husband has never had even chest pains. He was never diagnosed with any sickness.” Chidimma murmured.

Her heart was broken. The death of her husband stabbed at her soul until each hour, each moment, of what her life had become was a misery. Even all the wealth and legacy he left behind couldn’t comfort her.

He had left her, even as her parents and only brother left her it wasn’t this deep.

Her husband had gone with the wind, and a part of her that was hope, love, life had died that day.

The only man who loved her the way God did was gone and she couldn’t still believe it. He left and didn’t say a word to her, if she had known that was the last kiss he’d given her before he left for jogging, he wouldn’t have let her cross through their bedroom door. A man who made love to her soul, who kissed her passionately and gave her the world.

Now the dark closed in, and she was in the fire alone with her pain.

Naomi and Ubokobong sat by her all through. And even when Daniela and Daniel tried to play with her, touching her hair and beating her softly to chase after them, just as their mother does, Chidimma’s eyes weren’t blinking. She didn’t smile. She sighed all the time and murmured words that only she could hear.

The dark whispered to her in the night with the voice of her husband. She could hear him say things but she couldn’t understand them.

“Baby?” She called out his name loudly. Everyone widened their eyes. Ajayi immediately put on the light. Searching around, everyone was sitting up.

“He was here; he came to see me.” She said, sobbing. Naomi hugged her tight and whispered, “you are thinking too much. He wasn’t here, Chi.”

Chidimma turned to meet Naomi’s eyes, which were as teary and reddish as her own.

——————

The news of Arinze’s demise shook the whole city the previous day. His companies were shot down and his lawyers gathered for a meeting at the family compound.

“Who is Arinze’s next of kin?” Lebechi asked,  standing to her feet. Her eyes were gritty and sad.

“Ma’am, it’s his wife.”

“I bu anu öfia! How can you say that my brother will be foolish enough to make a woman his next of kin, a woman who has never conceived…I bu nwanyi nkiti.”

“Please shut up and sit down! We are not here to talk about the late Arinze’s wealth and who is taking over. We are here to tell you that even if Arinze wrote that his wife is next of kin, it is not her who will take over Ari Oils. We are a company. We have a board.” The lawyer said meanly, as he immediately put back his spectacles.

Chidimma didn’t understand what was happening. Her mind had gone far on a trip as many influential people trooped in and out, paying condolences. Ezinne rose to her feet when the governor of Lagos state visited and made an announcement that he would sponsor the burial of Arinze.

“Thank you, sir, thank you, sir…” Everyone murmured, except Chidimma was still mute and her eyes filled with clouded tears. For many days she hadn’t eaten. Only water. Naomi and Ngozi forced bananas and strawberries into her mouth, while Ubokobong only sat there, watching her best friend with sadness in her eyes.

“Madam, Oga’s sister wants to go out with your car, I asked her to take permission from you but she is harassing me to give her the keys to the G-Wagon.” Mr. David said worriedly.

Chidimma wiped the tears In her eyes and carefully walked down the stairs to the garage where Lebechi was standing in akimbo style. Naomi and Ubokobong walked behind her as escorts.

“Lebechi, ogini? Why are you harassing the drivers?”

“I want the car keys to this G-Wagon,

I want to go carry my kids from school.”

“Don’t you have your own car? And why must it be the G-Wagon? Arinze bought cars for all of you. Why do you want to use his special car?”

“Mechie Onu dia before I shut your mouth for you! Lekwa!” Ezinne said as she appeared from the sitting room. “I am waiting for my son to be buried, you see these cars and the whole house? You are leaving it for the rightful owners.”

“Mama please, please! Don’t talk to my sister like that. She just lost her husband, and already, you people are dragging things when Brother Arinze’s body hasn’t cold yet.” Naomi said.

“If you talk to my mother like that again, I will beat you right here and now and nothing will happen!” Lebechi yelled.

Chidimma sighed and walked away, “Mr. David, do not give anyone the car keys, no matter who!” She said as she climbed the staircase.

“Mama, she is showing us her true color now o. You have seen how horrible she is. My brother’s car that he bought

With his sweats! Chai, death see what you have done o.” Lebechi said tearily. Ezinne stood there, folding her arms together and shrugging her shoulders continuously.

Chidimma cried when the event planners called to announce that the cakes and the hall were ready.

“Dispose of everything.” She said softly and tearily and hung up the call. She sat there, imagining Arinze’s smiles as she led him into his birthday party hall. She imagined the kisses and all the poetic endearments he would have given to her. She wiped the drop of tear that fell from her eyes and handed the phone to Ngozi.