Previously on THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: So Kevin’s mum takes him to see Jude in the hospital, in spite of the fact that siszilla Janet had made it expressly clear that he was not to show his face around there. Some major cojones, right? Well, fortunately for Kevin, Mummy Dearest must have had something over Janet, because the woman becomes the perfect little girl when she sees them. We don’t know what Mummy Dearest has up her sleeve against Janet, but before we can ask her, she slumps right there in the hospital. Right after Kevin goes in to see that Jude’s female ex is back in the picture, kissing him and everything. I mean, can’t a guy catch a break around here?

And that’s what you missed on Episode 8.

*

“Shut up and stop lying! Do you take me for a fool!” Father barked as I cowered, dropping to my knees in front of him, my face down.

I quivered as I saw his trousers sag around his waist. He had just whipped his belt out from the waistline. And because he was a retired soldier, I whimpered at the expectation of the agony that was surely to come.

***

It was a few years before I met Jude. At this time, my family was struggling through some financial constraints and hardship. Things were tight at home. Father wasn’t making a lot of money, and Mother owned her own salon, which was slowly losing customers, whatever the reason. My sisters and I just barely managed to remain students at school, because of the huge amounts of school fees we owed.

Of course everyone in the house loved to act like nothing was wrong and that breakthrough was just around the corner. Well, everyone but me; I became the most cynical and pessimistic thirteen-year-old I ever knew. And my dissatisfaction with my family’s ‘situation’ drove my yearning for the finer things up several notches. I envied the children in my secondary school that had cool shoes. I lied that I had pretty much all the cool computer games, even though the closest I had to any of that was a game pad I’d found amongst a neighbour’s trash. I resented the girls who could just whip their hair this way and bat their eyelids the other way, and so get the boys in class to buy them lunch.

Yes, I was also the most covetous thirteen-year-old I ever knew.

I soon became best friends with a boy, Isaac Adedokun. We were as close as brothers. So close, that our parents became good friends through us.

Isaac was calm, quiet and very intelligent. Plus his family was freaking loaded. His father was a senator and his mother owned a large chain of restaurants. They lived in a gated compound with six cars and seven maids. They were my dream family.

Isaac visited me once in a while, and I went over to his house almost every day. And soon, we started to hang out only at his house. I was simply too embarrassed to entertain him at my house. And when my parents wondered out loud why he didn’t visit anymore, I dismissed their concerns with the excuse that his compound was bigger for the things we wanted to do.

And then, the day came when I went to visit the Adedokuns. It wasn’t very long before it became apparent that his parents were not home. Isaac was an only child, and we were alone in the vast living room, playing games, the seven maids out of sight.

And then, he leaned toward me and said in a low tone, “Do you want to do something really bad?” His eyes had a spark in them that I’d never seen before.

My heart jumped as the thought that this was the beginning of an amorous advance raced through my mind. I’d always nursed a crush on Isaac, for the greater part of our friendship. I was instantly horny, and my mouth went dry as I nodded in response to his question. He got to his feet and started out of the living room. I followed closely behind him, swallowing hard with each step.

When I noticed that we weren’t headed to his room, I said in a husky tone, “Uh, Isaac, where are we going?”

He turned to face me, that spark gleaming more brightly in his eyes and said, “You’ll see.”

He led me down a corridor I’d once before been on, and we soon got to a door that was more ornately wrought than most of the other doors I’d seen in the big house. I swallowed hard, this time out of mounting anxiety, when I realized where we’d come to.

“Isaac, is this not your mum and dad’s room?” My palms and armpits had become suddenly clammy as I darted a quick look around, positive that one of the seven maids would soon step out before us and nab us for trespassing.

“Yes?” he replied offhandedly as he dug his hand into his pocket. The hand came out with a key.

“But…but I was here the day when your parents said we should never come here,” I said.

Isaac rolled his eyes, with a small chuckle as he proceeded to insert the key into the door’s keyhole.

“Isaac, what are you doing?” I said in a fierce whisper. “We’re going to enter trouble!”

Without paying any attention to me, he turned the key three times. The lock clicked, and he turned the knob and pushed the door gently open. The smile he turned to me then was sly. He stepped in. I hesitated. Then, curiosity overcame my anxiety, and I walked into the room after him. The bedroom was beautiful and large; I’d come to expect all the rooms in the Adedokun house to be vast spaces. The furniture in the bedroom was all glass, marble, burnished wood and silk.

While I ogled the beauty of his parents’ bedroom, Isaac walked about, seemingly with purpose. He got to a small chest of drawers positioned beside the bed, and pulled open one of the drawers.

“What are you doing? You shouldn’t be touching anything,” I hissed.

He ignored me and lifted out a small metal box from the drawer.

“Isaac…”

He produced another key from his pocket.

“Isaac, please…”

He inserted the small key inside the lock of the box.

“Isaac, I want to leave…”

The lock clicked, and he began lifting the cover of the box.

Panic swelled inside me, and I turned and fled from the room before I could see what was in the box. Behind me, I heard Isaac yell: “Coward! Don’t ever come to my house again!” I was past caring. I was too scared to dwell on his words, as I ran from the house. I darted outside, and fear bloomed inside my chest when I saw the big and familiar Mercedes that was pulling up inside the compound. One door opened and an elegantly-shod foot dropped down.

“Kevin…” Isaac’s mother began with a sweet smile.

But I was still too terrified to function normally. I was still on the move, and fled past her and her husband as they stepped out of the car, not even sparing them a greeting.

At some point during my hurried departure from Isaac’s house, I stopped running, and began a long trek back home. The Adedokun house was a small distance away from my house. I calmed some and my breathing returned to normal as I walked. I also had time to think – about my life, about my covetousness, about Isaac and whether we could still be friends after today. I was hopeful that we would.

That hope was irreparably smashed when I got home.

The big and familiar Mercedes was parked in our compound – the same car I’d left behind at the Adedokun house. My heart began a fast pounding once I saw the vehicle. I instantly became afraid. My sweat pores opened up again, and for a moment, I stood there, in the late afternoon, frozen by the decision not to go on in.

And then, I realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong. So I walked into my house, to find my father and Mr. Adedokun engaged in a heated dialogue. They looked very angry. And when they noticed my presence, I saw clearly that the anger was directed at me. I stared in horror as the story unfolded from Isaac’s father.

Apparently, the boy had convinced his parents upon their entrance into the house and enquiry at my rude and hasty getaway that I was a criminal. He’d spun a yarn about how I’d convinced him to steal the house keys and break into his father’s safe so I could get money to buy my own computer game. And when I heard his parents coming home, I panicked and ran.

Betrayal battered my insides at this point. I felt tears prick my eyes as I thought about how my friend could do this to me, and how my father could absolutely believe this about me. He looked very furious, standing where he was next to Mr. Adedokun. Just before he left, Isaac’s father expressly told Father that he didn’t want me near his son or their home again, because I was a bad influence.

I was devastated.

I tried frantically to explain to Father what really happened, but he wouldn’t listen. He roared over my teary words, his anger a tidal wave.

“You will not embarrass me, you this idiot child! You hear me? Emeka, I’m talking to you! I said you will not embarrass me! I won’t let you!”

“Daddy, please…” I blubbered. “It’s a lie! Isaac lied! He was the one that wanted to break into the room. Not me!”

“Shut up and stop lying! Do you take me for a fool!” Father barked as I cowered, dropping to my knees in front of him, my face down.

I quivered as I saw his trousers sag around his waist. He had just whipped his belt out from the waistline. And because he was a retired soldier, I whimpered at the expectation of the agony that was surely to come.

“You want me to believe that that Isaac is the one that came up with the idea to steal his own father’s money?” he yelled. “Since when did I raise a son who is both a thief and a liar!”

I hung my head because it was obvious to me that nothing I would say or do was going to change my fate.

In that moment, he swung the belt and struck my scalp with it. The pain that slammed into me was so complete that I gave a very loud scream, dropping to the ground and lifting my hands to shield my head. Father was undeterred by my distress; he clasped the belt and swung again. The leather struck me and I shrieked again.

Just then, the front door slammed open and there she was, back from another day of poor sales at the salon.

“What is going on here?” Mother yelled as she swept a look around the room, in time to see Father preparing to lash out at me again. “Benjamin!”

Father paused. I was still on the floor, weeping endlessly.

“What in God’s name are you doing? Do you want to kill my son for me?”

“Carol, if you know what your son did, you would be doing worse to him right now!” Father shouted back.

“What could he have done, eh? What could he have done to make you want to kill your only son?”

As Father relayed to her what Isaac’s father told him, I felt the hurt that gradually swelled inside her, this in spite of my distress. She turned to look at me intermittently during Father’s narration, and the look in her eyes caused a surge of guilt to fill my insides.

“Emeka, go to your room now,” she said when Father was done. “I will deal with you later.”

Softly crying, I got to my feet and stumbled out of the parlour, aware of the burning stares of my parents on my back.

I remained in bed, thinking many miserable thoughts and visiting many iniquities on Isaac and his family. There were no other persons I hated more than the Adedokuns in that moment.

Several minutes later, Mother came into the room. As she advanced on my bed, I began to shrink back further into the small bed. The instinctual movement was driven by fear that she was here to continue where Father left off. I began to whimper.

“Stop crying!” she snapped. “Chukwuemeka, you’re a man.”

I struggled to swallow my sobs as she sat on the bed.

“Good,” she said. “Now, about what your father said you did –”

“Mummy, I didn’t do it! Isaac lied… You have to believe me…”

“I do.”

“Please, mummy, you have to –” And then her response registered, and I cut off my frantic plea to say, “You do?”

“Of course, I do.” She placed a hand on my shoulder. “Look, Kevin, you’re my son. I know you and I know what you can and cannot do. Stealing and coercing people to steal – that doesn’t sound like my son.”

I felt something golden and light swell inside me. She believed me. The thought caused a weight to drop from my chest.

She continued, “But you know, none of this would have happened if you were just content with what you have, right?”

“But, I was – I am…” I exclaimed unconvincingly.

“Okay. Now that’s a lie and you know that,” she said with a small frown. “I know things are rough with us, but your father and I provide for you and your sisters the best way we can. Is that not so?”

I nodded.

“Don’t worry, my dear son,” she added softly. “Everything will be alright. Breakthrough is coming, okay?”

“Yes, mum.”

“Good. Now, give your mummy a hug.”

I didn’t think twice before embracing Mother with all my body and heart. “Thank you for believing me, mum,” I said into her ears, my eyes filling afresh with tears. “I love you!”

***

“I love you, mum,” I said again, feeling a deep wave of melancholy as I stared at the frail-looking woman lying prone on the hospital bed. “I love you,” I whispered as I held her hand, willing her to open her eyes and bestow me with that ‘Everything will be alright’ look she gave me when I was thirteen. I’d hated this woman so much in the past few years that I’d almost forgotten the time I loved her.

Our lives changed soon after my fourteenth birthday. Father struck gold with a contract that made him money and unlocked doors. We were soon unimaginably wealthy, and became that family that took vacations abroad. Even two of my sisters furthered their education overseas, and a few years ago, my parents relocated to the UK.

Mother was right. Everything did become alright. Everything also changed, and at some point, she and I lost that poignant moment we shared when I was thirteen and miserable from a lie.

The hospital room door swung open just then, interrupting my thoughts. A man clad in a white jacket came in with a nurse who was holding a tray of small bottles and needles. The man was the doctor who’d been attending to Mother since her loss of consciousness some hours ago.

“Is she going to be okay?” I asked for what must be the umpteenth time as I watched them get busy around my mother.

“Of course,” the doctor said reassuringly. “What happened is common with her condition. She’ll soon come around, and then all she’ll need is peace and a lot of rest. She’ll be okay.”

With her condition… That part of the doctor’s words registered, but I dismissed them to mean Mother’s advanced years. However, I stared pointedly at the tray in the nurse’s hands. If she was going to be okay, what was the need for all those bottles and needles? my expression seemed to say.

The doctor caught my look and said with a chuckle, “Oh, those are not for her.” Addressing the nurse, he said, “You may go on to Mr. Mkpa’s room. I’ll join you there shortly when I’m done here.”

I gave out a small sigh of relief as the nurse exited the room. “Thanks, doctor. I worried when I saw all that medication. I mean, she’s already had some earlier.”

“You’re right to worry,” the doctor said with an indulgent smile. “Her condition isn’t exactly normal.” He was checking Mother for her vitals as he spoke.

Her condition? I wondered briefly again. Aloud, I said, “When will she regain consciousness?”

“Very soon. She and the little one just need some rest, and then you can take her home.”

“The little one?” I echoed, staring uncomprehendingly at the man.

“Yes, little one,” he said as he started toward the door, apparently done with Mother.

“Wait – sorry. What do you mean ‘little one’?”

“Why, the baby of course.”

Something stilled inside me as a look of utter incredulity blanketed my face. My mother was pregnant?! I was stunned. I opened my mouth to speak, and shut it again when I couldn’t produce any words. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the fact that my fifty-something-year-old parents were still having sex.

“You didn’t know?” the doctor said, observing my astonishment. “Well, your mother is pregnant, about three, four months along, from all indications. Congratulations, Kevin. You’re going to be a big brother.”

And he walked out of the room, leaving me behind with the bombshell he’d just dropped.

Written by Reverend Hot

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