Kate, in the company of Deji, had just walked her siblings down to their school gates, and was on her way back home to fix breakfast for her mother when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She dug into the pocket and frowned at the number on the screen. It was an unfamiliar one.
“Well, who is it?” Deji asked curiously when he saw her frowning at the phone.
“I don’t know. It’s a private number.” Kate replied. “I’m not picking it jor.”
Deji laughed. “You never even get money for hand, you don dey screen calls like all these big people I grew up around. Big girl for mouth. My friend, will you pick up that phone call before I descend on you there?”
Kate laughed. She was always amused whenever Deji spoke in Pidgin English. “This your ajebo pidgin sef. Abeg no kill me with laugh.”
She swiped her thumb across the glowing screen and accepted the call. “Hello?”
“Good morning, Miss Kate Udoh.”
The voice was female, clipped and very business-like. It also sounded strangely familiar. Kate felt a feeling of déjà vu sweep over her.
“Good morning.” she responded. “Who am I speaking to please?”
“This is Naomi, calling from the head office of Itah and Associates. We’ve spoken before, Miss Udoh.”
The mention of her late father’s surname had galvanized Kate. She stopped walking abruptly and Deji screeched to a halt as well.
“Is something wrong?” Deji asked, concerned.
Kate shook her head and mouthed ‘It’s alright’. Into the phone she said. “Yes, I remember you.”
And she did recognize the voice of the female employee that had called her for the first time all those months ago. It was the call that catapulted her into the truth of her true paternity and sent her barrelling right into the arms of danger in faraway tropical Akwa-Ibom.
Kate smiled, remembering how she had accused Naomi of being a scammer, trying to dupe her of non-existent millions. “I promise this time I won’t accuse you of being a scammer. Sorry about my attitude then.”
There was a short pause, as though the caller was surprised. It took Kate a moment to realize that Naomi, familiar with Kate’s status as an Itah, probably had not expected an apology from someone like her.
“It’s okay, ma.” The girl replied, surprise in her voice. “No need to apologize.”
Kate smiled and Deji visibly relaxed beside her. They continued strolling towards her house.
“I was instructed to call and find out when you would be returning for the reading of late Chief Itah’s will, so I could start arranging transportation details and…”
“Wait… hold on a minute.” Kate interrupted. She stopped walking again and Deji paused beside her and threw up his hands in exasperation. Kate ignored him. “A date has been set for the reading?”
There was a longer silence as the sound of paper being shuffled came from the other end of the line as though the caller were searching for something. “Errr.. Yes ma. You were supposed to have received the message yesterday. A confidential file sent via courier. I’m looking at a memo that says just that.”
Kate was baffled. She had spent most of the past few days at home, working and caring for her mother. She doubted she would have missed any messenger with a package meant for her. “Well, I didn’t.”
“Apologies then, I guess there has been some delay. I just assumed that you had been told already.” Naomi replied.
“I have not.” Kate replied. “I understand it may be as a result of someone else’s oversight, but I’m sure you understand I can’t give you an answer since I’m only just hearing about this.”
“Of course, Miss Udoh. I understand.” Naomi said. “When would be okay for me to call back and get the details of your travel plans regarding the reading of the will?”
Kate hesitated, the taste of bile at the back of her throat. The thought of returning to Akwa-Ibom was exciting and scary in equal parts. Memories of her near-death experiences warred with her desire to see her half-sisters and experience the beauty of the state’s capital city again. Plus there was the matter of a certain young man who she was trying her best to forget…
“You know what? I’ll get back to you on that. Can I call this number?”
Naomi affirmed that Kate was free to call back at any time, provided it was during working hours.
Kate sighed. “I can’t just decide when I will be coming to Akwa-Ibom…” or if i will , she thought darkly to herself. “…so I’ll think about it and call you back, okay?”
When she ended the call, Deji was watching her avidly.
“You’re going back?”
Kate chewed on her lower lip as they resumed their strolling pace. “I don’t know yet.”
Deji shrugged. “I would have said don’t go, but it’s just because I prefer you around to gist and stuff. There’s no danger there anymore, you know.”
Kate was surprised to hear Deji advising her to travel to Akwa-Ibom for the reading of the will. He had been very eager to drag Kate back to Lagos, so what had caused the change of heart?
“Besides, we both know you have unfinished business back there.” Deji continued, a wry smile stretching his lips. “You can’t avoid him forever, you know. You have family there as well. In a way, he’s part of it.”
Kate did not respond, her thoughts whirling as they reached her home. Thoughts of Chris were the last thing she wanted to dwell on.
Her late stepfather’s mother, Mma Ette, greeted them as they stepped in through the front door of the small house.
“Kate o, person bring envelope for you.”
Kate nodded, guessing it was the couriered parcel from Akwa-Ibom, one day late. “Where e dey, Mma?”
“E dey parlour o.” came the old woman’s response. As she and Deji pushed aside the curtains leading into the living room, the woman added, as an afterthought. “The person wey carry am come dey there too o.”
Kate walked into the dim room and blinked to adjust to the light. There was a person standing in the middle of the room, a brown envelope in his hand. She froze as she recognized him.
Deji chuckled. “Like I said, unfinished business.” Her friend said in a low voice.
Kate could not respond. She just merely stared at the face of the last person she wanted to see.
What was Chris doing in her house?
Check back on Thursday for more episodes.