Agnes came out of the restroom in the master bedroom she shared with Ben. Ben was up in bed going through a large family album and smiling at the happy memories.
“Why are you smiling?” Agnes asked, amused.
Ben looked at her as his smile widened. “Oh, I am just looking at pictures from the early days.”
Agnes joined him in bed and they watched the pictures together.
“Those were good times, weren’t they?” Ben asked.
“Yes they were. Look at the children. So young and innocent. How did they grow up so fast?” Agnes replied.
“Time. Yesterday, they were little children playing and jumping all over the place. Today, they are responsible adults with their own families. Very soon, Ify will marry and move to start a family of her own. It will just be two of us. I miss those days. I wish we could get them back.” Ben said wistfully.
“Me too.” Agnes replied in the same tone. Then she sighed.
“What is it?” Ben asked, concerned at the sadness he detected in her.
“Have you noticed anything strange about Ify?”
“Are you referring to her meltdown this evening?”
“So you noticed?”
Ben shrugged. “Look, she is about to commit herself to a man she will live with for the rest of her life. Of course she is bound to react to that one way or the other. Remember how you cried that you wanted to go home to your parents the morning after our wedding? I guess Ify is going through the same thing. Cut her some slack. I thought you women understand these things better.”
“I know but still… there is something off about her. I can’t place my finger on it. Call it a mother’s instinct.” Agnes insisted.
“What do you mean?” Ben asked curiously.
“Remember the way she attacked those robbers that came to this house the last time and all the other weird things that followed. Now she goes off over very little things. In the kitchen, she went berserk over a fish. Fish o. You know Ify loves to eat fish. She literally changed before my very eyes. In fact, let me tell you the truth. Anytime she comes close to me these days, I cringe. I am scared of her.”
“Why? Is she not your daughter?”
Ben’s tone made her want to strike him. “Oh, she’s my daughter now, okwa ya?” When she was nice and sweet, she was daddy’s darling little angel.”
Ben blinked at her outburst. Then he sighed. Women. He’d been married for almost forty years and yet, he couldn’t understand his wife.
“What do you want me to do now?” He asked calmly.
“I don’t know. I was hoping you would talk to her to stop being an ogbanje.”
“Ogbanje? It hasn’t gotten to this, Agnes.”
“It has o, honey. Something is wrong. I can feel it. Sometimes, I feel that that person is not Ify.”
Ben rolled his eyes. “Come on Agnes, of course she is our daughter. Personally, I think she is acting out because of stress. Let us just hope it ends when she gets married.”
Agnes sighed. “I hope so. I really hope so.”
Meanwhile the queen was in bed in Ify’s room, growing stiff with anger and dread as she listened to the conversation in the master bedroom. So, they were beginning to suspect her. She knew the kitchen incident was a mistake. She could have handled it better. The queen berated herself. What was wrong with her? She was the queen of the universe, queen of the coast and mother of all creation. A queen shouldn’t react like a mere human because of a little provocation.
But truth be told, that wasn’t a little provocation. Whatever her former subject, Johnson, the stupid ungrateful imp poured on her face was deadly. And she had sneaky suspicion what it was.
“No, no, it can’t be.” She muttered, shuddering in fear. But where did he get the knowledge from?
She turned over and sighed. It didn’t matter now. So far, nobody knew what she was, not even the girl’s mother who was growing too suspicious for her liking. She had to do something about that woman. In fact, she had to do something about all of them before they find out and damage her plans.
* * *
“Oh my God!” Ify exclaimed the next morning. “My family is in danger.”
She rose up but Johnson stopped her. “Where are you going?”
“To warn them of course.”
“That’s not going to work. You’ll only put them in further trouble.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
* * *
The queen walked straight to Lola’s and Halima’s desk at the office. They turned away.
“Hi.” She greeted cheerfully.
“Go away, Ify.” Lola said curtly.
The queen sobered. “I want us to talk.”
“We don’t want to talk to you. Go away.” Halima said.
“Please now.” The queen pleaded.
“Shebi you said you want to cut us off because you’re getting married. We have made it easy for you. Go away. You’re disturbing us.” Lola said.
“It’s not like that.” The queen replied. “I shouldn’t have said that. I am so sorry. The truth is I wasn’t myself. I’ve been so stressed out. I didn’t mean what I said. I swear.”
“Ok, we’ve heard.” Halima said.
The queen smiled. “Have you forgiven me?”
“We’ll think about it.” Lola replied, not smiling.
“Come on, I said I am sorry. You guys are my best friends. We’ve been best friends since forever. What are friends if they don’t forgive each other? Please now, forgive me.” The queen pleaded with all sincerity she could muster.
Lola and Halima looked at each other as if they were consulting telepathically. They nodded and turned back to her.
“Ok, we forgive you. But what you said yesterday hurt. I have to tell you. You know I don’t hide my feelings.” Lola said.
“As in eh, I never thought I would hear you say it.” Halima agreed. “But we forgive you, sha.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.” The queen beamed. “How about we hang out this evening. My treat.”
Lola finally smiled. “You want to bribe us, abi?”
The queen laughed. “I want to show you I am really sorry about yesterday.”
“You don’t have to do that to show you’re sorry. You’re our friend.” Halima said. “But since you’ve offered to take us out, who are we to say no?”
They laughed and hugged and the queen went back to her desk… or Ify’s desk. She sat down smiled smugly to herself. Things were back on track. She had even taken care of the girl’s parents. She had made them a very sumptuous breakfast and apologized profusely to them. They had forgiven her after a lengthy lecture on how they didn’t like her recent ogbanje behaviour. Ogbanje? Really? Of all things to call her, it would be Ogbanje! That was very insulting. But she had let it pass. If she didn’t have better plans, she would have blasted them to kingdom come on the spot. Then they would know she was more than an ogbanje.
* * *
“Relax, she isn’t going to do anything to them.” Johnson assured Ify.
“How do you know? You’re not there with them.” Ify wasn’t convinced.
“The queen wouldn’t want to hurt them so as not to attract unnecessary attention. Yes it sounds ironic but they are safe. But if it makes you feel better, I will do something to protect them.”
“Thank you.” She asked, curious.
“You’re welcome.” Johnson replied confidently. “Meanwhile, we have to begin getting the things we need to get her out of your life.”
“Ok, what do you have in mind?”
“We need to get fish oil. Lot’s of them.”
Ify sat up. “Fish oil again? What exactly does it do?”
“Mermaids or sea goddesses have some sort of kindred spirit with fishes. They can’t eat fish, not even in this world. Picture someone serving you a plate of human flesh.”
“Eww.” Ify screwed her face up in disgust.
“Ok, so we get a lot of fish oil. But you told me it’s more complicated than that.”
“I did and I will explain. Have you ever wondered why gods and goddesses don’t carry out their missions themselves but send agents instead? There’s a reason for that. You see, each god or goddess has a realm he or she controls. In these realms, they are powerful. No one can touch them. But when a god or in this case, a goddess leaves her realm to another, she becomes very vulnerable. And if there’s anything the gods dread so much, it’s vulnerability.”
“Then why is the queen not vulnerable since the sea is her realm and she is on land?”
“Who says she isn’t? She only wants you to believe that so you will be too afraid to come after her. You see, when she is in her realm, she is an all-powerful goddess. Nothing and nobody gets to her. Here among the living, she may be powerful and all-knowing. After all, she isn’t really human. But she is also weak. This earth is not her natural habitat. It is ours. We may not have supernatural powers like her. But we do know how to defend ourselves by other means.”
Ify nodded. “So we need fish oil. What else?”
“We kill her pythons and get into her realm.”
“What?” Ify said in shock.
“When you were there, did you see a mirror and an urn? They were on the stools on the two sides of her throne.”
“Honestly, I was too scared to notice. All I thought about was how to get out of there.” Ify replied.
“What do you know about sea goddesses?”
Ify shrugged. “I don’t know. They’re very beautiful?”
“Good. And they are very vain about it. They have this extraordinary attachment with their extraordinary beauty. They love to bask in their beauty and admire themselves. That’s why they need a–”
“Mirror.” Ify finished for him.
“Right. If we have to defeat her, we need her mirror.”
“Why not just any mirror?”
“It won’t work. In fact, it will be an insult to her. We need hers.”
“And the urn?”
“Her pythons shed skins periodically like normal pythons. She collects them, grinds and pours them in that urn for her purposes. Ironically, she cannot use them on herself, especially when she is so vulnerable here in our world. She can use it on anyone but her. Talk about back to sender.”
“So we’ll go back to that place again.” Ify said and sagged in defeat. “I don’t know if I want to do this.”
“Would you prefer to spend the rest of your life as miserable as I am?”
“Good. We need to start immediately.”
And they did. They spent the days that followed in intense preparation of their impending mission. Johnson taught her how to douse the knives and stakes they made in the oil. He taught her how to fight with them.
“How did you learn to do all these?” Ify asked him one day as they practiced.
Johnson grimaced. “I met some interesting people during my wanderings. They didn’t like the queen because their gods were at war with her. So they taught me how to defend myself against her. Unfortunately, by the time I met them, she had already taken everything from me.”
“I am sorry.”
“It’s okay. I deserved it. You don’t. And I am going to make her pay for it.”
They continued to practice.
* * *
Agnes came out of the hospital and went to her car.
“You’ve collected your result, madam?” A male voice asked her. She turned to face the voice. A middle aged man approached her smiling cordially. She had seen him at the waiting room. They were waiting for their result.
She smiled back. “Yes, I have. Have you collected yours?”
“Yes, everything is fine now, thank God. The last time I came for a check up, the doctor said my cholesterol was very high.” The man replied.
Agnes’ eyes widened in surprise. “Really? I’m having the same problem. My cholesterol is high. The doctor said I should cut down on some certain foods before the problem becomes too serious. He recommended some drugs. Did they help you?”
The man shook his head. “Not really. Drugs are good but diet is better. I focused more on my diet.”
“I think I’m going to do the same thing. I hate drugs, to be honest.”
“Then allow me to introduce you to this oil. It helped me. I know it will help you too.” He gave her a well packaged bottle of oil.
She read the label. “Fish oil? I’ve never seen that.”
“You won’t have to worry about cholesterol problem if you and your family take it. It’s very rich in Omega-3.”
Agnes smiled. “You sound like my daughter. She loves fish.”
The man’s eyes gleamed in satisfaction. “Then she will love this oil. I’m sure of that.”
“Alright, I’ll try it.”
“You won’t regret it. I promise. You’ll thank me later.”
“Sorry, I don’t know your name.” Agnes said, curious.
“Johnson.” Johnson’s smile widened. “My name is Johnson.”
* * *
“Where is Iyke?” Tony asked as he entered the tailor’s shop.
Johnson looked from the material he was sowing and smiled at him. “He is not here. He went for a burial in his village.” Which wasn’t true. Iyke was actually in his house unconscious and gagged.
Tony was angry. “Village? What the hell is wrong with that guy? I told him I was coming to collect my clothes today.”
“Oh, you must be Tony. Yes, he told me about you. Hold on, let me check.” Johnson said and checked the already sown materials on the hanger. He brought out a very well designed traditional wear.
“This is yours, right?”
“Yes.” Tony said in relief. He took the cloth and tried it on. “It’s too tight.”
Johnson nodded. “I can see.”
“But that’s strange. I have known Iyke for years. He normally gets my measurements right.”
“Maybe the problem isn’t the cloth. It might be you.” Johnson observed.
“What do you mean?” Tony asked defensively.
“Maybe you’ve added some weight.”
“What?” Tony said, surprised. “It’s not true.”
“You just said he normally gets your correct measurement. So, it might not be his fault.”
“But… wait, let me call him first.” Tony said and dialed Iyke’s number. It was switched off. “What the hell?”
“Look, it’s very easy. I can adjust it to your right size. But you might want to consider changing your diet. You don’t want your madam to start looking outside.” Johnson offered.
Tony took offense. “I live a very healthy lifestyle, thank you very much. And I don’t know you.”
“Oh, I’m only standing in for Iyke until he comes back from the village. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin your cloth.”
“Ok.” Tony gave him the cloth, hesitantly.
“So, are you going to take my advice on the diet?” Johnson asked delicately as he mended the cloth.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not fat.” Tony replied curtly.
“I’m not saying you’re fat. Just be careful of what you eat. You know, to avoid cholesterol problems.”
“I know that. Even if I want to take diet tips from you, I’m sure you have nothing new to offer me.”
Johnson lit up. “I do. Take this oil. It’s good for you.”
Tony took the bottle he offered and read it. “Fish oil? Why?”
“It helps you lose weight.”
Tony laughed. “I’m not a woman. And you can stop patronizing me. I know you just want to sell your product.”
Johnson chuckled. “Ok, you’ve caught me. But I assure you, you will not like taking any other oil if you try this one. It’s very good for your heart. Very rich in Omega-3.”
Tony smiled grudgingly. “My woman actually loves fish. I’m sure she will like this.”
Johnson beamed. “Great. She deserves it. Even if she doesn’t want it, use it for yourself. You won’t regret it, I promise.”
Tony laughed. “Have you met my fiance’? She loves fish a whole lot. I think I’m going to prepare a surprise jollof rice for her after our wedding.”
Johnson paused. “Wait, you’re getting married?”
“Yeah, next weekend. We’ll be traveling to the village this weekend. That’s why I was pissed when I didn’t see Iyke.”
“Oh, I see.” Johnson said quietly.
“He didn’t tell you? That cloth you’re holding is my traditional wedding outfit.”
The final episode will be out next week. Drop your comments and share.