Everyone overcompensates for something; Chukwuka was no exception to this rule.
He desperately wanted a daughter. This desire was born from the fact that his mother passed on while giving birth to him. He felt redemption would come from having a daughter he could dote on the way he could not with his mother.
At a point, he was livid at his chi. “Only boys? Give me a daughter! Aren’t there other men in dire need of sons? Why me? Boys-boys…” Surely, God has a contorted, more like tacky, sense of humour. When you want or desire something so bad, you don’t get it. Yet you see other people taking for granted what you desperately need.
After six sons, Chukwuka got his wish. Nikechukwu became the darling of his eyes the moment she was born; she could do no wrong. Even when she thought she was one of her brothers, by ignoring femininity, he pardoned her saying it was expected, because her siblings influenced her. When her school principal told him his beloved daughter was caught fondling one of the girls in the school in a classroom, he forgave her. It is normal for girls to experiment at this stage of their lives, he exonerated.
Nikechukwu made her father proud in ways her brothers did not. She was the first person in his clan to gain an admission into the university the same year she left secondary school at a time people wrote JAMB seven times in a row. In addition, she got a scholarship to study Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. What more could he ask for?
What he did not realise was this preferential treatment had sown the seed of discord between his wife and daughter. His missus was jealous he showered their daughter, not her, with affection. At a point, she suspected her husband had an affair with their daughter, but she never said a word. Time, a good gardener, tended the seeds of suspicion and jealousy in her heart until they blossomed into hatred. How does a mother hate her own child? Once, Mrs. Chukwuka asked her daughter, “How did someone like you enter my womb?”
In return, Nikechukwu had told her mother, “You should have aborted me when you had the chance.”
“Coincidentally”, these clashes always ensued when Chukwuka was offshore. Were it that her brothers lived in Awka, too, these fights would not have been serious.
Nikechukwu knew it was a matter of time before her mother pushed her to the edge.
A week after she returned from school, after her final exams, Nikechukwu had asked her girlfriend, Chinedu, to visit for a week or two.
“I don’t want to be away from you for so long,” she had entreated, but Chinedu had pleaded that Nikechukwu came over to Owerri instead.
She was sceptical. Were it that her father was home, this would have been possible. He would be offshore for a month. There was no way she could contact him to ask his permission.
Faced with the only option she had, she decided to give it a shot.
Later in the evening, when her mother returned from evening mass, Nikechukwu had asked the woman if she was permitted to spend two weeks in Owerri with her close female friend.
As expected, Mrs. Chukwuka vehemently refused. It would have been better if she stopped there. Instead, the woman went on to hurl demeaning words at her daughter.
Time had taught Nikechukwu to ignore her mother’s meanness. As usual, she was going to keep mum through this. That resolve faded when her mother called her a whore.
Her mother said, “Look at you! Ashawo! You’re selling yourself. You have become cheap. You’re lying that you are going to visit a girl when you are really going to see a man! Aren’t you shameless? You are going to a man’s house to allow him to use you.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell the irate woman she was not in any way interested in men. Nevertheless, she changed her mind. Instead, she launched into a wicked laughter. “I told you I hate you, but after sleeping on it and waking up, I have decided that I’m indifferent to you. You don’t deserve any emotion from me. I can’t waste my feelings on you.”
Her mother, with her beady eyes wide open, blinked at her. On a normal day, Nikechukwu would have flinched from the hatred that shone in the manner of hot flames, but she didn’t. Instead, she was amused at how a woman could hate her own daughter for nothing. She was close to saying, “Fuck you! I dismother you.” She would not have cared if dismother wasn’t a word, but it would send the message across.
Some heartbeats pounded away when Mrs. Chukwuka spoke up while gesturing at her, “Say whatever you want to say. I hate you, too. Two cats can’t live in the same house. Say whatever you want to say.”
In the past, that would have snapped the strings of Nikechukwu’s heart, but sitting here, she did not care. This emotion – whatever it was – was mutual. There was no point in dragging it out. Moreover, they had never been on good terms. It was not as though she was losing someone she cared for. There was no point in sitting here with this woman whom she loathed. Not another word said, Nikechukwu stood to her full height, not looking at the woman that sat in the armchair, and walked away from the sitting room.
In the quiet of her room, her mind schemed. Her mother was a tumour to her. You can’t reason with tumour; the only thing you can do is cut it off. Yes, cut it off, she thought. If she was going to cut it off, she had to cut it successfully and leave no trace. She would execute the operation and no one would link it to her.
She had had it to fever pitch with her mother. Nikechukwu couldn’t remember any time the woman spoke nice words to her. Unlike other girls in her class, she could never confide in her mother as she was bigoted and judgmental.
Once, Nikechukwu had gone to lament to her mother about how depressed she was. In return, the woman told her to pray the sadness away. In addition, she went on to shame Nikechukwu with words of the Holy Scripture. Your sinful ways are the cause of your depression, she had stated. It beat Nikechukwu how some sane people attributed mental illness to being a result of sin even when Jesus, in John 9:1-3, explicitly stated that sin was not the cause of illness.
With each minute of the night, the briliant thoughts in her mind got more refined as she imagined new, wonderful ways to execute the operation at hand. It was going to be effortless – as easy as taking off her lover’s panties.
Nikechukwu waited for her father’s return to set her plans in motion.
Nikechukwu called her parents the moment she set dinner. As usual, they would serve themselves from the food she had dished out. She sat on her seat, took a plate, and added a wrap of semo. She was barely done adding oha soup into her plate when her parents came to the table.
As expected, her father praised her efforts. Her mother was silent. It was as if the woman had taken an oath somewhere saying she would die if she ever spoke a nice word to her daughter.
Chukwuka was unaware of the bad blood between his wife and daughter because his wife never showed her green horns around him. The times Nikechukwu went on to yap about it, her mother had vehemently denied, saying she would never be mean to her only daughter. Chukwuka bought this – as it did not make sense for a mother to hate her daughter.
After dinner, Nikechukwu had cleared the table and washed the dishes. Never had she left dirty plates in the sink. She felt they became disgusting after a long time.
At 8:30 PM, she had told her parents she was going to bed. Chukwuka wished her goodnight while her mother ignored her. Not as if she cared, but she called out to her mother.
“Ma, I’m going to bed. Goodnight.”
“Oh!” the woman exclaimed. “Goodnight.” Even a deaf person could hear the feigned emotions in her voice.
The next morning, at 5 AM, Nikechukwu got out of bed to do her chores according to routine. Some criminals acted out of routine and this led to people pointing accusing fingers at them.
The previous day, she had prepared the substance. Earlier in the semester, she had read about what drugs to mix to produce a lethal combination. At the time she read it, there was no intention to kill her mother.
Before taking the plates to the dining table, she had rubbed the substance in the plate she was sure her mother would use. According to routine, her mother always waited for her father to take his plate. Nikechukwu smiled as the thorn in her flesh scooped some soup into the plate. Good enough, the substance was tasteless- the woman would not suspect a thing.
Before going to bed, she had taken care to flush down the drugs she mixed in the event anyone was psychic enough to suspect anything. Although she would have preferred something a bit bloody, she settled for poisoning. There was a time she imagined hiring an assassin; however, she imagined the killer might tattle to the world that she asked him to kill her mother for a fee.
As she cleaned the glass table in the sitting room, she heard a scream from her father.
Yes! She screamed and made fist pumps in her head. On impulse, she looked at the wall clock, 6: 38 AM. It was not the time of death. The woman might have passed on way earlier than that. No one was going to know the cause of death as there would be no autopsy. Her father, in the typical Nigerian fashion, was going to spiritualise this.
He would call her brothers; they would come in from Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, and Aba. Luckily, her father and brothers were staunch Christians. They would call the pastor to pray against witches and wizards because people did not die in their sleep. In turn, the pastor would indulge their ignorance. He would tell them the Lord wanted them to fast and pray for a week or whatever. He might even see a vision about evil people chasing them in the spiritual realm. She expected all that cliché. It would not occur to anyone to carry out autopsy to determine the cause of death.
With her mother out of the picture, Nikechukwu was sure she was going to be happy. Before going to her mother’s room to feign tears, she decided to place a call.
She dialled the first number on her call log. With the phone against her ear, she heard the dialling tone and smiled.
“Hey, babe,” she said when Chinedu answered. “I’ll be coming over like next week.”