A CHANCE TO LOVE: Episode 11 – The End

?A Chance For Love?

Episode fifteen


“I’ll schedule a consultation and hire the right attorney so we can start the court procedure for child custody.”

Something had awakened me. I’d heard a sound other than the pitter-patter of rain. Wide-eyed, I listened for it. Moments passed and it never came. Perhaps I’d been dreaming.

The book I’d been reading fell off my chest as I rolled to my side. I slipped my phone from underneath my pillow. I still couldn’t believe I had a phone. If this was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up. Amarachi and Flora would be so thrilled to have my number.

The time read 2:48. Sliding my phone underneath the pillow, I lay back in bed, hoping to get some more sleep. And then I heard it. The sound that had awakened me. Amidst the heavy rainfall, something whimpered. I bolted to my feet and raced to the windows.

Our animal guest crept beside the wall opposite my room. It shivered in the cold rain, whimpering with each step it took. My stepmother couldn’t stand animals. But I couldn’t leave the dog to die in the cold. I would never forgive myself.

How had it gotten in anyway? If Cynthia had brought it in, then wouldn’t it be in her room? If neither of us had brought it in, then it must have dashed in when Cynthia opened the gate for her mother.

Without a second thought, I sprinted to the backyard. Ice-cold rain whipped hard, drenching me in a split second. My teeth clattered, forming a beat I could almost dance to, and despite all efforts, I could not make it stop. I wrapped my arms around myself and advanced toward my new friend, but it scooted away from me.

“I’m a friend,” I said.

The dog stared at me as though trying to decipher if I could be trusted. I held out one hand. And the other. I placed one foot forward. And then the other. The dog stiffened. It let me scoop it into my arms.

I clutched the adorable puffball to my chest. It nestled in my arms as though we were old friends.

“There now,” I said. “You’re safe.”

With my new friend in my arms, I made for my room. But I’d only arrived at the dining when the door leading to my stepmother’s side of the house flew open. I crossed to the other side of the dining, eyes roaming in search of the perfect hiding place for Bruno.

Bruno. That would be his name during his stay here. He stared back at me, his wide eyes telling me he perceived a threat.

“Who’s there?” my stepmother asked from the passageway. Her footsteps approached, forcing me to hide Bruno behind thick curtains.

“Don’t move.” Whirling around, I stepped away from the curtains. My stepmother walked into view, her face darkening at the sight of me.

Glaring at my soaking-wet nightgown and the water dripping on the floor, she scrunched up her nose. “What nonsense is this?”

“I will mop the floor,” I said.

She rolled her eyes and turned to leave, but then she pinched her nose and looked back at me. “What smells like wet dog in here?”
I shrugged.

“Go back to bed, mum,” Cynthia said. She’d walked in a moment ago. “I’m sure it’s nothing but her filth.”

My stepmother sniffed. “Goodness. How can a human being smell like wet dog? There’s nothing I won’t see in this—” A sneeze pushed through. Without another word, she stormed off, slamming the passage door.

“Where is it?” Cynthia asked.

“What?” I asked.

“The dog, you idiot.”

I feigned innocence. “Dog?”

Her gaze fell to the floor. I froze as she traced the pattern I’d made with drops of water. It led her right to Bruno. Scooping him into her arms, she cradled him.

“Nice doggy doggy,” she petted, her voice like a child’s. “Look how wet you are. Poor thingy. Will take care of you, love.”

All smiles, I watched her leave. I knew without a doubt she’d take good care of Bruno. He would be fine.

I awakened to a hysterical scream of my stepmother. My heart thumped hard against my chest. Had someone broken into the house? Jumping out of bed, I dashed out of the room and into the passageway where the scene unfolded.

Cynthia clutched a whimpering Bruno to her chest. My stepmother lunged at Bruno, but Cynthia scooted to the other end of the passageway.

“Mum, stop it,” she cried.

“Get this filthy thing out of this house this instant!” my stepmother said. “Who brought it in anyway?”

“I did,” Cynthia said. “He was going to die in the cold outside, so I brought him in. Mum, please, don’t ask me to send him away. I’ve always wanted to have a dog.”

“That is not happening!” my stepmother said. “Not under my roof. Do you know how dangerous these things are? Look how you’re cradling that dirty creature.”

“He isn’t dirty,” Cynthia said. “I had him shower.”

“That’s enough now!” my stepmother said. “Enough of this insanity.”

“Mum, please—”

“Mum is right,” I said. “It wouldn’t be right to keep Bruno. His family must be looking for him. We have to return him after school.”

“You, shut up!” Cynthia said. “You have absolutely no right to tell me what I can and can’t do. Do you understand?”

She turned to look at her mum. “Mum—”

“Do as you wish,” her mother said. “But if I get bored and something happens, don’t blame me.”

“Thank you, mum,” Cynthia squealed. “Thank you so so much. I love you. I know, I just know it that you’ll love Bruno, and maybe then you’ll think about buying me my own pup.”

My stepmother’s warning resounded in my head. But if I get bored and something happens, don’t blame me.

Cynthia should have paid attention to that warning. She obviously didn’t think her mum would do anything to hurt Bruno. I wanted to share her faith, but I just couldn’t. My stepmother would get bored and something would happen to Bruno.

Sat with Amarachi, Flora, Mary and Farah at our lunch table, I barely even heard a word from their conversation. I could not get my mind off Bruno.

“Earth to Victoria,” Farah said. “Are you even listening to us?”

“I guess,” I said.

Amarachi sighed. “She’s been like this all morning.”

“Are you alright?” Mary asked.

“Yes.” I stared at her, noting how Raheem had overcrowded my friend-circle with his family. I’d been surprised to see her walk to our table.

“She’s thinking of Bruno,” Amarachi said.

“Who’s the dog?” Farah asked nonchalantly. Silence greeted her question. “Sorry. Is it a human being? I’m sorry. It’s that dogs are called Bruno, so I just thought—”

Amarachi giggled. “Bruno is a dog.”

“So what’s the story?” Mary asked.

“He was shivering in last night’s cold rain,” I said.

“Yesterday’s rain was cold enough to wake up one’s dead grandma.” Once again, silence followed Farah’s words. Punctuating the silence, Mary and Amarachi burst out laughing. Flora and I fought to resist the contagious laughter, but luck eluded us.

“So, about Bruno,” Mary said.

“I brought him in,” I said. “But mum doesn’t like dogs. And she gave us a very unsettling warning.”

Coloring her voice with a dramatic evil, Amarachi said, “If I get bored and something happens, don’t blame me.”

“Wow,” Farah said. “That woman is so scary. What does she look like?”

“Farah!” Mary warned.

“The person you’re calling is currently busy,” Farah said, winking at Mary. Mary shook her head, and although she tried to fight it, a smile stretched her lips.

Farah returned her attention to me. “You best take that warning seriously. Who knows, you could return home to find poor Bruno hacked into bloody little bits. Poor poor doggy. At least you can’t say she didn’t warn you.”

Farah’s perception of my stepmother had a striking resemblance with Amarachi’s. My gaze darted between the two girls. I had a feeling they would be great friends.

I spent the rest of the day with Amarachi and Flora, giving Raheem close to no chance to steal away a glance. I’d told them about his proposal. Amarachi seemed more than excited to keep me away from him, although she believed in the end I would give up on keeping him at arm’s length.

Once the closing bell rang, Amarachi and Flora guarded me to our car. Raheem stared from the top floor. His wounded look aimed to make me feel sorry.

Thoughts of him crowded my mind. Only when I arrived home did I remember Bruno. I would find a way to sneak him out of the house. That way, he would be safe. Cynthia would hate me for it, but I didn’t have a choice, did I?

“No!” Cynthia’s scream cut through me like a sword. I bolted in the direction of her voice and found her sitting on the kitchen floor with a mass of fur in her arms. Bruno.

I drew nearer to the scene. “What happened?”
Tears spilled out of Cynthia’s eyes as she cradled Bruno’s limp body. My eyes adjusted to a half-eaten loaf of bread lying across the floor. And then it hit me. Bruno had been poisoned. How could my stepmother have done this?
Tears flooding my eyes, I sprinted to my room and slammed the door behind me. Flaring voices sailed to my hearing. Cynthia’s and her mother’s. Cynthia’s brittle voice rose and fell with every word she said. I reached for my phone and called Stella. She rejected my call and called back almost immediately.

My sniffle caught her attention. “Vicky, what’s wrong?”

“She’s killed him,” I said. “She killed Bruno. I should have taken him out of the house when I left for school. If I had, none of this would have happened.”

“Calm down, please,” she said. “I can barely even get a word you said. Try to calm down and tell me what happened. In.”

I inhaled.

“And out. Now, tell me what happened.”

“Remember the dog I brought in last night?” I asked.


“Stepmother killed him,” I said.

Stella gasped. “What do you mean she killed him?”

“She poisoned him. I just feel so terrible.”

“Victoria, this is serious. Anyone who kills an innocent little puppy is capable of killing a human being! Now I’m afraid, Vicky. I’m afraid of what she could do to you. She’s crazy.”

Regrets flooded my insides. “I shouldn’t have brought him in. It’s all my fault.”

“Shh. Hush now. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. The dog snuck in when Cynthia opened the gate for your stepmother. And then you brought him indoors to save him from the cold. You did your part, Victoria. Don’t let anyone make you regret your fine works.”

“I’m just so broken right now,” I said. “Why did she do this?”

“You’ve seen what she did to Bruno,” Stella said. “Now we know what she’s capable of. What if she did that to you?”

“I thought of that too,” I said. “But she wouldn’t—”

“Well, we won’t wait to find out. There’s no way I’m letting you stay with that woman.”

“What? Are you implying I leave? But you said it yourself that you wouldn’t let me leave this house to them.”

“You’re not leaving the house,” she said. “You’re only going away for a few days. Just until I think of something. That woman has to pay for her crimes. I told you from the start that justice must be served, but you’re bent on making her accept you as a daughter. That will never happen. Do you see it now? You want a chance for love, but with her, the only realistic thing you can hope for is a chance for death. Do you not see this?”

I kept mum. Stella sighed, breaking through the silence. “Victoria, do you trust me?”


“Then you must do as I say,” she said.

Doing as Stella said involved leaving for school the next day with a few clothes packed in my bag. I did just so. Uncertainty coursed through my veins at the sound of the closing bell. Was I ready to leave my family behind? Stella believed this to be for the best, and Amarachi thought no different.

From the corridor, I watched Cynthia leave. My heart swelled with a longing for home. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t leave my family. I’d tell Stella. She would surely understand. I turned to leave, but found myself facing Sir Aaron.

“I know you’re conflicted about this,” he said. “But it’s only for a few days. At least, till Stella and I put things in order.”

“How?” I asked.

He smiled in a way that brought my father to mind. “That’s my job and Stella’s. Your job is to seek happiness. Can you do that for yourself?”

“I’ll try.”

“That’s a good girl. Come now, I have to finish up with my work. It’ll only take a minute or two.”
Sir Aaron’s ‘a minute or two’ translated into an hour or two. Watching him attend to paperwork made my eyes droop. I pulled Stella’s Robber’s Heart out of my bag and flipped to page sixty where I stopped. I read through four pages, and Sir Aaron’s ‘a minute or two’, counted on.

“Five minutes and I’m done,” he said.

That would mean five hours. But this time, he kept to time. It felt awkward following him to his car. He didn’t seem to notice my discomfort. Either that, or he was a great actor.
We got into the car and he pulled out of the lot, his pace noticeably slower than Raheem’s. Being with him brought a new kind of feeling to my body; a bold mix of fear and the promise of relief.

I looked down at the book on my laps, my new companion. But Sir Aaron interrupted me before I could even take in one paragraph. “What did they do with the body?”

“What body?” The answer hit me once the question left my lips. Bruno. “I don’t know. Stepmother and Cynthia disposed of it. I’m thinking they buried him somewhere.”

“Or tossed him in the trash somewhere,” he said. “Why, it’s possible. I doubt that stepmother of yours would trouble herself by digging him a grave.”

An image of a decomposing Bruno lying in the trash raked into the walls of my chest. I turned away, willing this image away. I wanted to believe Cynthia had forced Bruno’s murderer to honor him by burying him. But the more I thought of it, the more I thought of his corpse being exposed to defilement.

“You’re a strong one,” Sir Aaron commended. “You go through a lot, and yet you wear a smile and act like everything is fine.”

“I learned to cope,” I said.

“That’s a fine skill. Holding your head under water and still breathing fine.”

“Thank you.”

After a moment of silence, he asked, “Are you nervous about meeting my family?”

“Yes, sir,” I admitted.

“You shouldn’t be.”

“How many kids do you have?”

“Three. Bolaji is the eldest. He’s not home at the moment. He’s studying Medicine in Uniport, and so, he stays at Choba. You know, distance and all. And then there is Sharon. She’s done with high school, but hasn’t gained admission yet. I know you’ll get along just fine. Although, I must say, she’s obsessed with being neat. Can’t stand a small stain on her cloth. Washes her bed sheets and towels every week. She won’t have a handshake unless she’s sure you just stepped out of the shower, or used a hand sanitizer. And then she always carries with her a hand sanitizer. And finally, there’s your namesake. Vicky. She’s only eight, but she’s a handful. Looks just like her mother.”

“Your family is adorable,” I said.

He smiled. “Wait till you meet them. You’ll feel so at home, you’ll see.”

I’d feel so at home. Although he’d aimed at helping me relax with those words, he achieved the exact opposite. But I wouldn’t bare his failure to him. The thought of feeling at home in Sir Aaron’s house frightened me. What if I felt so at home that I forgot my family and wished to belong here instead? Wouldn’t that count as betrayal?

“Daddy!” a little girl screamed, bursting out of Sir Aaron’s house. “Daddy! Daddy!”

She flung herself at Sir Aaron and wrapped him in a bear hug.

“How are you?” Sir Aaron asked.

“I’m fine!” the girl, Vicky said.

Emotions swirled within me as I watched them. They brought to mind the great relationship I had had with my dad.

I missed him. At first I’d thought the wound of his departure would heal, but it never did. And now, seeing the love between Sir Aaron and his daughter had just reminded me of my hurt, and how ruthlessly life had cheated me.

Looking away from the tear-triggering sight, I led my eyes to the house before me. It didn’t compare to the mansion I lived in, but it held an air of love around it. It felt like home.

“Where’s Sharon?” Sir Aaron asked. “I brought you guys a new friend.”

“A new friend!” Vicky said. “Cooool!” She hopped to me and took my hand. “Hello. I’m Victoria. But everyone calls me Vicky.”

I smiled at her. “I am Victoria.”

“Great! Dad, she has my name. Come, mum would be so glad to meet you!”

Before I could protest, she dashed toward the house, pulling me with her. For a child, she had some unbelievable strength.

“Mummy, daddy brought a friend for me!” She made to step into the house, but I didn’t follow.
“My shoes,” I said.

She gave me a moment to kick off my shoes. In seconds, I found myself in the kitchen. A woman turned to look at me. She held a spoon she’d been using to stir. From the scent wafting through the air, I recognized the food-in-progress to be vegetable soup. Dad’s favorite.

“Good evening ma,” I said.

“Good evening dear,” Mrs. Aaron said. “You must be Victoria.”

“Yes ma.”

“My husband has told me so much about you. It’s great to finally meet you. You must be starving. Food should be ready before you’re done showering.” To Vicky, she said, “Vicky, show her to the room.”

Returning her attention to me, she said, “You’ll be sharing a room with my daughters. Vicky will show you to the room so you can freshen up. I’m sure Sharon’s clothes will fit you just fine.”

“I brought a few clothes,” I said.

Mrs. Aaron gaped at my backpack. “What? In that little bag of yours or there’s a suitcase?”

A suitcase? Would I be staying here forever?

She waved off my unasked question. “Never mind me. Oh, anyway, you can always try Sharon’s clothes. She’ll be pleased to share.”

“Come on,” Vicky said. All smiles, she ran past me and flung open the door to a room. She grabbed a pillow and approached Sharon who lay asleep in bed. Before I could protest, she slammed into her with the pillow.

“Wake. Up. You. Sleepy. Head.” With every word, she slammed the pillow into her.

Sharon grunted. “Vicky, allow me to sleep!”

“No I won’t,” Vicky said. “Wake up this instant!”

Groaning, Sharon dug her face into the pillow underneath her head. She crushed her fist into the wall and leapt to her feet. “You’re dead!”

Vicky screamed and giggled as Sharon dashed after her. She leapt behind me and gripped me for shelter. “Ogre,” she said, jumping and giggling. “Ogre! Ogre!”

I couldn’t help but share Vicky’s excitement. Frozen in her tracks, Sharon took a few moments to smoothen her disarrayed hair. “Hi, Victoria.”

“Hi,” I said back.

“I swear, had you not been here, I’d have tickled her to death for interfering with my sleep,” Sharon said. “I was even dreaming and she just interrupted it like that. Can you imagine?”

“What were you dreaming of?” I asked.

She waved off my question. “Speaking of it will only break my heart.”

“That heart has been broken over and over again,” Vicky said. “I wonder how it still works.”
“Vicky, I don’t have strength for you,” Sharon said.

Vicky detached her hands from me. Her fading footsteps told me of her exit. Sharon seemed pleased.

“Come in,” she said, heading for the bed on which she’d slept. Her reflection in the mirror caught her eye. Picking a hair brush from the closet, she kept each strand of hair in place.

Just as I made to sit on the second bed, Sharon turned around with a shriek that almost split my eardrums. “No no! Don’t!”

I held my awkward position for a moment before straightening my spine. My face contorted into a grimace.

“Go shower first,” she said. “You’re all sweaty right now.”

Had I not been warned beforehand of her obsession with neatness, I would have taken offence. But now, I could only find it intriguing.
Moments later, freshened up and clad in a jean skirt and pink t-shirt, I stepped out of the bathroom to find a pair of slippers at the door.
“I wouldn’t want your feet to get dirty,” Sharon said. She didn’t look away from the game she played on her laptop.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Mum came a moment ago to tell you food’s ready,” she said. Too engrossed in her game, she didn’t notice my departure. Neither did she notice my presence fifteen minutes later.
I plopped down in the unoccupied bed and busied myself with Stella’s Robber’s Heart. I’d barely even finished one page when Sharon paused her game. The sudden quietness forced me to look at her. Laying in bed and propped up on an elbow, she stared at me.

“I didn’t even notice you were back,” she said.

“I didn’t want to interrupt your game,” I said. “What game is that?”

“Fast and Furious. I doubt you know it. You’re not allowed to watch TV anyway. But don’t worry. You’re here now. You’ll get all the love you’ve been deprived of.”

It felt awkward knowing Sir Aaron had told his entire family of my misery. But with Sharon’s sweetness, who could dwell on a thing like that?

“Wow,” Sharon said. “I can’t believe I haven’t even told you my name. I’m—”

“Sharon,” I said.

“Ah! I see someone’s been talking about me. What did dad tell you? I’m dying to know everything!”

“He said you’re done with high school.”

“What else? I hope he mentioned my supposed obsession, because only then would you be able to stand my personality. I mean, some people take me for a proud person. But that’s not what you think, is it?”

“Of course not,” I said. “I think it’s adorable.”

She grinned. “Adorable. I’m adorable.” She sat up and leaned toward me as though wanting to peer into my mind. “Hey, tell me something. Do you think the Iraqi Sherlock Holmes likes you? I mean, from what I’ve heard, he’s allergic to humans, mostly the ones wearing skirt. But then, he didn’t mind spending time with you in the name of solving a case. What’s your take on this?”

“Where do you get your news from?” I asked.

“Why? Are you stunned about how reliable my source is?”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “I know it isn’t Sir Aaron. No, it has to be a student.”

“Of course it is. But I won’t tell you who.” She stuck out her tongue.

“It’s a girl?” I asked.

“Not telling you.”

“Oh, please. Come on!”

“No way on earth am I.”

“You have to tell me. If transporting you to Mars is the only way, so be it.”

Sharon giggled at my hopeless threat. “Guess what else the person told me.”


She grinned. “You are to Raheem what Juliet is to Romeo.”

“No,” I said. “That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever heard.”


“Really, it’s totally wrong.”

“Oh, but the look on your face tells me otherwise.”

A smile stretched my lips, making it impossible to hold Sharon’s gaze. She smiled knowingly as I averted my eyes.

“You’re only imagining things,” I said. “Besides, Raheem would never look at me that way. And even if he did, I wouldn’t be ready to play ‘Juliet’ just yet. It’s a really challenging role.”

“Yeah, right. Anyway, about the case you solved, my dad is really proud of you. And I am too. Ever since, I’ve been dying to meet you, and now here we are.”

“I shouldn’t receive any credit. Raheem did all the work.”

“Yeah, right.” After a moment, she added, “Hey, you’re so easy to talk to. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”

“I was about to say the exact same thing,” I said.

“If only we attended the same school, we’d have been great friends. But I never even thought of Western High, because the fee is just too much. It’s more than hundred times the fees in the school I attended. No kidding. You can compute it yourself. Mine was twenty eight thousand per term. Highest was thirty four. At least, writing my WAEC in SS2 has helped save one year’s worth of fees, thank goodness.”

Our conversation went on till darkness conquered daylight. At one point, I’d even convinced her to give Stella’s Robber Heart a chance. Going through my phone, she found a video of Raheem’s live show I’d downloaded from YouTube.

“This guy is bomb!” she said.

“There’s more to him than meets the eye,” I said.

“I’m turning on my Xender. That video needs to be on my phone!”

I shared the video via Xender. Sharon cranked up her volume as she played the video. “When’s his next performance? I wouldn’t forgive myself if I missed it!”

“I don’t know when,” I said.

“Are you for real? Call him right now and ask him.”

“I don’t have his number.”

“What? Why?”

“We aren’t exactly friends. We were only partners in crime solving. And that’s that. I think now we’re back to being strangers.” A wistful look crept to my face.

“You’re okay with this?” she asked. “Returning to being strangers when there’s a great possibility of a wonderful friendship?”

“Actually, I’m the one avoiding him. I don’t think he wants friendship. He—”

“You see! I told you!” Sharon’s piercing voice could slice through rock. “My source’s right. There’s a modern-day Romeo and Juliet in the making.”

“No,” I said. “That’s not even it. He has a very wrong view of girls. He thinks we’re all the same. And now he wants me to prove that not every girl is the same.”

Her smile said she’d seen this coming. “That is him asking you on a date, my friend. His way, though, is…wow. Don’t say yes, though. If he wants you to date him, he’ll have to drop his ego and ask you directly. We won’t accept anything less than that.”

“We?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “We are a team. High five?”

The door cracked open and Mrs. Aaron stepped in. “Dinner’s ready.”

“One moment, mum,” Sharon said.

“I don’t think I’ll be having dinner, ma,” I said to Mrs. Aaron. “I ate barely two hours ago. I am still full.”

“Sweetheart, I have already dished out your food,” she said. “So please, come and eat. You don’t have to finish everything on the plate.”

“Sorry, my friend,” Sharon said. “But here, we make sure to have three square meals. No less.”

Walking away, Mrs. Aaron said, “I didn’t cover anybody’s food o.”

“Oh poo!” Sharon sprang to her feet. “You should have said so earlier, mum. Thanks, mum! Just thanks!”

Sharon fled to go attend to her uncovered food. I made to follow, but my ringing phone held me back.

I answered Stella’s call with a smile. “Hi.”

“Hey, what’s up?” she said. “You’re all good, I hope.”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Perfect. And your new home? I hope you feel at home.”

“I do. They’re lovely. Thank you so much for helping me.” I wished she were here so I’d hug her.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You have to do something for me in return, though.”

Words failed me. What would she have me do?
“Are you there?” she asked.


“Okay. I was saying you’ve got to do something for me in return.”


“Be happy,” she said. “Can you do that for me?”
As simple as her request sounded, we both knew happiness was the number one emotion that eluded me. But for her, I would try to find a place for it in my gloomy life.

“Yes,” I said.

“That’s a good girl,” she said. “I just wanted to know how you’re doing. I’ll call you later. Take care.”

She ended the call. I placed my phone beside my pillow and made for the dining, but an ongoing conversation stole my attention.

“What do you think of her?” Sir Aaron’s voice sailed amidst the clatter of cutlery.

Careful not to make any noise, I stood beside the wall, and thankfully, my shadow hid beside me. Entering the dining would bring their conversation to a halt, and I didn’t want that just yet.

“I like her,” Vicky said. “She’s nice.”

“We got along just fine,” Sharon said. “She’s a lot prettier than I thought.”

“She’s okay with your obsessive neatness disorder?” Mrs. Aaron asked.

“Mum, it’s no disorder,” Sharon said. “It’s the best way of life. Don’t you see that I don’t get sick like the rest of you?”

Mrs.Aaron played deaf to Sharon’s question. “I’m impressed you all like her. We need to be good to her, okay? She’s been through a lot. Sharon, you’re a bitter old maid sometimes, but put that away while she’s around, okay? She needs a break from sickening dramas.”

“Mum, I’m not a problem as long as you give me all the freedom an adult needs.”

“I’ll start treating you like an adult when you start acting like one.”

“I’m not a kid anymore,” Sharon said. “Mum! Dad?”

“I’m invisible,” Sir Aaron said. They all smiled at me as I joined them in the dining. A plate of fried plantain and fried egg sat before me.

“Dad, will Victoria return home sometime?” Vicky asked. “I’m so worried about her. She’s happy with us. I don’t want her to go back to that evil woman you told us about.”

“She has a point, dad,” Sharon said. “That woman is capable of murder.”

“Your mother and I were thinking the very same thing,” Sir Aaron said. “We have decided to take custody over her. I’ll schedule a consultation and hire the right attorney so we can start the court procedure for child custody. But first I’ll visit that woman to tell her of the new turn things have taken. Victoria will have no more of her abuse. That woman is crazy! Killing a pet dog is unthinkable. It shows just how depraved she is.”

“You’re right,” Mrs. Aaron said. Staring at me, she went on, “It is not only not in your best interests but also to your detriment to be left with your so-called family. They’ve caused you much harm already. With them, your physical, emotional, moral, or mental health is in jeopardy. You are a fine young lady who needs an appropriate home. I know our home isn’t much, but we will treat you right. Things are hard in Nigeria at the moment, but my children don’t starve. I’m sure there’ll be enough food for everyone.”

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