ORANGE ON THE SILVERBIRD (EPISODE 3)
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Start Reading: Episode 1
At 9PM in Lagos State, Nigeria, it looked nothing like it was night. Cars still jostled down the road and horns blared from various vehicles at the same time.
The two occupants of a vehicle gave a deep, weary yawn at the same time. From the driver’s seat, Mr. Elliot turned to look at his boss’s son, and they both burst into laughter. It had been a long drive from the Muritala Mohammed Airport to Ikoyi .
“That was a long ride. It looks like old age hasn’t affected your driving skills. ” Jasper called from the middle seat, where he sat with his tablet in hand.
“Thank you, Sir.” Mr. Elliot replied as he manoeuvred the new Toyota Alphard 2020 White model off Gerrad Road into Park View Estate. The vehicle was soon skittering down Aso Street, which was a few minutes away from the street they were going down.
Jasper shook his head to the rhythm of Jaymike’s “Heaven” as it blasted from the car’s stereo speaker. He smiled as he remembered Mr. Elliot’s attempt to make him comfortable throughout the ride from the airport.
Jasper hadn’t exactly left his family on a good note when he left for Johannesburg.
Yes, Mr. Elliot was family. He had been his father’s chauffeur for as long as he could remember. As kids, Mr. Elliot would drive them to school and pick them up every afternoon. When Jasper’s parents were out of the country, he kept things in order until they returned. The Oguntonades trusted him that much. He had been like an uncle to Jasper until a few years ago when everything changed and he, Jasper, had just shut everyone out and left the country.
His father had informed him of how he had been sceptical about sending Mr. Elliot to pick him up, knowing how his son’s action had hurt everyone, but the man had pleaded that the drive back home would help them get acquainted again.
He had thought the man would bore him with questions, but he was obviously waiting for him to start the conversation. Jasper scratched his brow; enough of getting acquainted.
He cleared his throat; “Mr. Elliot,”
The driver looked at him from the front mirror before answering, “Yes, Mr. Jasper.”
Jasper raised his eyebrow, wondering where that had come from. Uncle Elliot always called him by his name. He chuckled painfully; “Mr. Jasper?”
“Well, two can play the game.” The older man smiled from the front seat.
Jasper frowned; this was going to be much more difficult than he had anticipated.
Jasper sighed, “I can’t exactly call you Uncle Elliot again. You know you are older now. ” He explained like a five-year old, hoping the man would understand.
The man chuckled in response; “No problem. You know, you are going to be taking over the company soon, and I can’t exactly call my boss by name, Mr. Jasper. Plus, you are a man now. Remember, I am just your driver. ” The man muttered the last sentence drily.
Jasper groaned; that was what he had shouted at the man five years ago when he had returned home angrily and lashed at everyone.
He closed his eyes briefly, as if in anguish; “I’m sorry I said that.”
Mr. Elliot tapped his hand on the stirring wheel without answering.
Jasper continued, “Something had happened that day, and I just wanted to be alone.”
He relaxed against the seat and looked outside the window.
“What happened, son?” Mr. Elliot called from the front seat.
Jasper’s eyes became watery immediately; now that was his uncle talking. The man had forgiven him so quickly.
He wiped his face quickly; “Well, let’s say I realized something at a very complicated period and the truth actually shattered me.”
The man looked at him from the mirror; “Jasper, I still don’t get you.”
He looked up to meet the driver’s gaze in the mirror. Mr. Elliot held his eyes for seconds before diverting his attention back to the road.
Jasper shook his head gently; “Uncle Elliot, I don’t know if I really want to talk about it. I have prayed and healed, so I don’t want to open up old wounds.”
The man shook his head; “It’s alright. Can I ask you something?”
Mr. Elliot shifted in his seat, as if trying to make sure the words came out the right way. “It’s about that girl, right? The one you always talk to me about when you come back from work?”
Jasper inhaled a deep breath and paused before answering, “Yes.”
Mr. Elliot smiled; “You’ll be fine Son.”
Jasper nodded, “Yes. I hope I’m forgiven.”
“Son, I never had anything against you. When you just shut everyone out, it didn’t go down well. It …'”
“Hurt.” Jasper completed
The man laughed and said, “Something close, but we prayed for you. Your mother was hesitant to let you leave the country, but I and your father felt it would be beneficial to you. I’m glad we were right. ”
Jasper smiled widely.
There was silence in the car for some seconds before Mr. Elliot spoke up again; “So do you love your new ride?”
“I love it.”
“Wait, what?” Jasper stopped.
Mr. Elliot grinned widely and said, “I knew you didn’t hear what I said at first. Your dad bought it for you. I knew you would love it. ”
“What happened to my Mercedes Benz GLE?” Jasper asked.
“You mean that class of 2016? It’s been in the garage since you left 5 years ago. Your Dad felt you needed something new. ”
His father never ceased to amaze him. “Well. That’s thoughtful of him. How much did he get? ”
Mr. Elliot’s silence had Jasper raising his eyebrows.
“How much?” He repeated it with a bossy tune.
The man pouted; “Please don’t tell him I told you. We bought it for #95,000,000. ”
“You’re kidding, right?” Jasper asked, his eye almost popping out.
“No.” He answered abruptly.
“Uncle Elliot, how are we sure you men weren’t jilted? This is Niger. ”
Mr. Elliot frowned; “No. We bought it from jiji.ng. You can even check their site. It’s still in stock. ”
Jasper felt his body relax. “Well, it helped transport all my things from the airport.”
“And it is big enough to accommodate your future wife and kids.” The man completed.
Jasper eyed him suspiciously. “I hope Mum and Dad won’t bore me with marriage talks at home.”
The man shoved his shoulder; “I believe they won’t do that for now, but I know they are concerned. They feel like they don’t know their son anymore. ”
Jasper hardened his jaw without answering.
Mr. Elliot continued; “The video calls you people had like once every six months helped a bit. Don’t worry, you will feel at home again. ”
“I pray so.” Jasper replied.
“I know so.” The man smiled. “Welcome back home.”
He pulled the vehicle to a stop in front of a huge building on Olamijuyin Avenue. With his right hand, he expertly pressed a button inside the vehicle, and the gate opened on its own.
“Automated Gate now, hmm?” Jasper asked.
“Your Dad complained that Suraju was always somewhere whenever we arrived, so Mr. Dele sold him the idea.”
“I hope that man isn’t thinking he will work as my PA when Dad hands over. I don’t think I can be comfortable with a PA old enough to be my uncle. ”
Mr. Elliot kept quiet as he pulled into the garage. He shifted the gear into park mode before answering. “I think your mother already thought of that. They’ve decided you can make your own choice. ”
“I prefer that.” He said as he relaxed. He was used to Uncle Elliot being the only one of his father’s men. He wondered how he could cope by stepping into his father’s position.
“Let me not think about that for now.” He chastised himself as he looked around his childhood home.
“Home has changed.” He whispered.
The man nodded; “Yes. But really, it’s not the same without you. ”
“Is the playground still there?” He asked, stretching his head towards that direction.
“Yes. Your father wanted to divert the place to something else, but your mother said it would be useful for when you get married. Of course, you will get your own place. But what if your kids visit?” Mr. Elliot looked at him and smiled.
Jasper eyed him. “Did you say they wouldn’t bore me with marriage talk?”
“Did I say so?” The man asked innocently and then burst into laughter.
“And who is keeping that young man inside that vehicle?” A familiar masculine voice called out from the patio.
Jasper and Mr. Elliot burst into laughter as the latter opened the door with the control and Jasper stepped down.
The gliding door closed gently behind him as he caught his parents standing together and looking in his direction. Their entwined hands didn’t go unnoticed.
After taking a few steps, Jasper saw his father relinquish his wife’s hand. His parents started heading in his direction as though on cue. Jasper wasn’t even able to blink or turn away.
The manner in which Jasper would walk in his sixties was exactly how David Oguntonade walked. His father had broad shoulders and was a muscular, tall man.
Jasper could see his mother’s brokenness more and more as their distance grew. The fact that she was crying quietly told Jasper more than she could possibly express.
“Look who is home after 5 years!” His father, David, said as soon as they were facing each other.
“Daddy, Eku ile.” Jasper called as he went down to greet his parents in the typical Yoruba way.
“Obaloluwa.” His mother called out tearfully as she helped him up and drew him into a hug.
Mr. Elliot walked by just then with a big leather bag.
“Welcome, Elliot.” Mr. Oguntonade called, and the man responded with a quick nod.
Tabitha sniffed as she released her son.
“How are you?” She asked in a whisper.
Jasper smiled, “I am fine, Mum.”
His mother smiled broadly and said, “Let’s go in. I have asked Mama Jude to prepare your favorite. ”
“Thanks, Mum,” he said cheerfully. With Jasper in between his parents, the three walked up the patio into the sitting room.
His father reached for the handle of the door; “Welcome home, Son.” He directed mother and son to enter and walked in after them.
Jasper and his mother sat on the long sofa, and his father helped himself onto a sofa.
“Jasper, if I know you well, what you would want to do now is have a shower.” His Mother said.
He preferred that. “Yeah, I will be back for dinner. ”
His father reached for his hand. “Don’t worry, you’ll give us all the gist tomorrow.”
Jasper laughed, “Alright, Sir.” He stood up and moved to go towards the staircase. He could feel his parents watching him.
“Jasper.” It was his father.
He stopped and turned quietly. “Sir?”
“We are glad you are alright.” Jasper nodded and smiled. He turned and walked up the stairs. He understood his parents. They were obviously dying to ask him a hundred and one questions, but consoling themselves with the fact that he was alright.
By the time Jasper got to the front of his room, Mr. Elliot had arrived with the last of his luggage.
“Thank you very much, Uncle.” He called out as the man turned to step out.
The elderly man nodded and patted his shoulder. “It’s great to see you again.”
“Same here.” He replied warmly. The duo bade each other good bye, and the man left.
After a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the safe trip, Jasper walked into the bathroom for a warm bath. Minutes later he was lying on the bed sleeping soundly. An hour later, he woke up with hunger chunking at his stomach. He walked down to the dining room to see his food placed on the dining table with a note beside it.
“We waited for you to come back, but knowing you, we guessed you had slept off. I asked the cook to keep the meal warm until you awoke at midnight. Bon appetite.”
Jasper smiled; his mum still remembered his habit of waking up to eat at night. He placed the paper on a part of the table and removed the plate used to cover the food.
Staring at the combination of Jollof rice, Moi-Moi, and chicken, he swallowed. He picked up his spoon and smiled; he was back home, where he belonged.
The next morning, Jasper was awakened by a cacophony of voices coming from the hallway. Forcing his eyelids open, he glanced toward the wall clock to discover it was 7:15am. He dragged himself out of bed and went to take a brief bath in the bathroom. The worst of his tiredness was vanquished with a splash of warm water on his face.
He soon walked downstairs to see his parents having breakfast.
“Good morning, Mum.” He said as he gave his mother a side hug.
“Good morning, Dad.”
“Good morning, Son,” his mother said as she sipped her tea. “Hope you slept well?”
He shook his head. “I did.”
Mrs. Oguntonade cleared her throat; “Remi.”
“Yes Ma.” The maid, who was a woman in her thirties, walked into the room hurriedly.
“Bring Jasper’s breakfast for him.” He watched his mother instruct.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs, bread, and tea. He wasted no time in doing justice to the food. He could feel his parents’ eyes watching his every move. They were dying to ask him questions, but obviously didn’t know how to start.
His father cleared his throat suddenly; “Son, I will be handing over soon.”
Jasper nodded, as he had expected something of such. “Well, I have always seen it coming.” He said, then he chuckled.
His mother watched him silently before commenting, “You never always desire it.”
He nodded in agreement; “Yes, Judith did.”
“Until she made the wrong choice.” His father added .
Jasper hummed in agreement as he lifted his cup and sipped his tea.
His father wasn’t done; “And you also wasted a year of your life trying to get revenge for her death by working in that prostitute lodge.”
“Yet I gave it up.” Jasper whispered softly before looking up to meet his father’s eye.
His father didn’t bat an eyelid; “Yes. I have never really asked why you just came home that day, and the next thing was you requested I process your visa papers, and within a week you were out of the country. What was going on in your head?”
He was still thinking of how to respond when his mother cut in; “I was scared.”
Feeling apologetic, Jasper bowed and brought his hands together. “I’m sorry.” He said softly.
His father nodded before asking, “Did something happen at that place?”
Jasper rubbed the nape of his neck and said, “Yes.”
His mother frowned. “You want to talk about it?” It was his father that asked again.
He tapped the table twice. “No. I have since forgotten it. ” Then he continued; “I felt like I had failed Judith as her older brother, so I wanted to make sure those involved rotted in jail. I was blinded by anger and revenge.” He stopped for two seconds, then he said, “God actually warned me.”
“Vengeance is his.” His mother put him in.
Jasper nodded. “Yes, he reminded me. But I didn’t listen.
“So?” His father asked
He closed his eyes briefly before responding; “I shut out the voice of the Holy Spirit whenever he brought up the matter, and, of course, I drifted away from God. I just stopped talking to God. But one day, he spoke to me.” He chuckled painfully.
His mother pouted, “When was that?”
He smiled, “The day a new girl arrived at that place.”
“And what did the Lord say?” His father asked calmly.
He closed his eyes again and said, “Rescue her soul. Your coming to this place will only make sense if you are your sister’s keeper. ”
“How?” His mother looked confused.
“I just felt like I was supposed to protect her in some way,” Jasper said as he opened his eyes and shoved his shoulder.
His mother shook her head, “And you failed?”
He looked thoughtful for a moment before answering, “Not exactly. She ignored my help; just like Judith. ”
His father sighed. “So?”
“Because of her, I even gave up seeking justice for my sister. Who does that?”
His father shook his head irritably; “The same person who left studying Business Administration at 200 level to go work in a brothel.”
Jasper rubbed his head; “I was angry.”
Tabitha Oguntonade looked at her son pitifully and said, “Finishing with the grade you got was a narrow escape.”
“You are right, Mum.” He whispered softly then continued; “Well, I have forgotten all about the past. When I got to the US, I had a fresh start with God, and it has been wonderful since then. I was also able to further my program. I have decided that God is in control. It was then that I also realized another mistake I made. Winning that girl was something I should have done with the wisdom of God. I felt all that was important was to protect her. I got carried away.”
His father nodded in agreement; “Thank God you realized that. What is your next course of action?”
Jasper looked his father straight in the eye and said, “I will start working for the company so I can learn my way around. And then I feel like reconnecting with Pastor Solademi. ” He had met the clergy when he was in secondary school. The man, along with some students in the higher institution, had always visited his school to reach the young ones. It was one of those days when he had given his life to Christ. He had begun to feel the need to speak with the pastor again about a week before his departure from the United States. Though he didn’t know where the man was, it wouldn’t hurt if he reached out to any of his old classmates. There could be someone who had never lost contact with the man.
“I just feel like I should connect with him again, plus I have this feeling I might go into the ministry.”
His mother clapped her hands together like a typical Yoruba woman would do when shocked, but said nothing.
“You’re kidding, right?” his father asked, staring at him as if he’d sprouted horns.
Jasper laughed. “Not full time. I just know God doesn’t want me just sitting on the bench.”
His father’s look softened; “Please remember, you are my only hope for the company. Get more clarification on what you think God wants you to do and get back to me. ” His father dismissed him with his hand.
“Alright, Sir.” Jasper replied as he stood up to go. Remi walked into the dining room to clear the table.
His mother coughed; “Son, who was that girl to you?”
He frowned; “Who?”
The woman shook her head; “You know who?”
“Mum, I honestly can’t say but I cared for her,” Tabitha observed as her son ran his hand through his hair. “I sincerely did.”
“As a sister?” His mother asked with squinted eyes.
He shoved his shoulder; “Yes. I guess.”
His mother looked like she wanted to say something else but sighed, “It’s alright.”
Jasper sighed in relief. “Yes Ma, I’ll be in my room.” He turned to go when he heard his mother’s voice. “What was her name?”
He rubbed his face as if in anguish; “Sandra.”
His mother nodded, and without anyone saying a word, he turned and climbed up the stairs.
He fell onto his bed and closed his eyes. His mind flipped through the events that had happened five years ago. He shivered as the night stood out in his thoughts. The night that changed it all. It was the night of 21/09/2011.
The owner of the place, Mama Slizzy had earlier told Sandra that a chief wanted to be her friend and wanted her to keep him company; in return, she would be gifted money. As usual, she had excitedly agreed and had run to tell Jasper that day.
He had grabbed her in horror; “Sandra, you need to leave this place.” Sandra looked pissed and pulled herself out of his grip.
“Are you alright?” She frowned.
Jasper had groaned in frustration; “I thought she really cared for you. You need to leave. ” Seeing that he didn’t have the reaction she had expected, the girl stomped off in anger.
As Mama Slizzy had promised, the day came. Jasper had been off duty when the chief arrived and had only finished changing into his work clothes when his partner told him the chief was around. He had run with his heart thumping wildly in his chest to Sandra’s room.
The old man was just about to go to the girl’s room when Jasper blocked his way.
The stout man looked surprised; “Jasper?”
“Yes, Chief. I’m sorry, but I can’t let you touch her. She’s still a girl, for crying out loud. ”
Eyes blazing red stared back at him; “Why? You want her for yourself? ”
Jasper felt his face harden. “I’m not joking.”
The older man wasn’t having it anymore; “Suliyat should better get here. What is the meaning of this nonsense? ”
Sandra had stepped out of her room at that moment; “Uncle Jasper?” Sandra looked at him innocently.
Jasper sighed; “Sandra, please, you don’t want this man inside your room.” He had hoped she could at least trust him and understand.
She frowned, “But he wants to be my friend.”
Jasper shook his head and said, “That’s the lie they told you.”
“Big J,” She whispered, “Come on, I’m a big girl.”
Immediately, in place of Sandra, was his sister, Judith. His mind pictured how she had told him she was a big girl when she had first started hanging out with the ladies from the red cottage.
She had gotten herself pregnant, and the man had insisted she abort it. In the long run, his sister had bled to death and the same man was about to have his way with Sandra; over his dead body.
He grabbed Sandra by her left hand and pulled the girl after him.
She struggled, “Let me go.”
“Mama Slizzy.” She called out.
As if on cue, the woman walked into the passage; “Yes, babe. Have you finished with the chief?” She stopped when she saw the scene before her.
“Jasper, what’s happening?” She asked furiously.
Jasper shook his head; “I thought you cared for her.”
“Henhen so? Abeg, release the girl jare.” She hissed.
Jasper wasn’t having it; “If she were your sister, would you let this man touch her?”
Mama Slizzy’s look softened for a minute; “Jasper, please let’s avoid trouble. Okay, let the girl go.
“Uncle Jasper, let me go.” Sandra pulled her hand out of his grip, but he didn’t let go.
“Jasper?” The Chief called out in anger.
He looked at the man disgustingly; “Chief, aren’t you ash…?”
“Arggh!” He cried out and let her hand go. She had bitten him.
“Sandra?” he called painfully.
“Okay, I’m not a baby. Why is everyone trying to babysit me? I’m 16 for crying out loud. ” The girl shouted and hissed.
“Sandra.” Jasper whispered, and for a moment he saw a flicker of anguish in her eyes.
Mama Slizzy had witnessed enough of the melodrama; “Get out of here, Jasper.”
Heaven knew he had tried his best and, even though it was killing him, he turned away from there. He walked out and never looked back.
Jasper groaned inwardly as thoughts of Sandra elbowed their way to the forefront of his memory. It had been happening since he knew he was coming back home.
“Man, you better let what is in the past stay in the past.” He chastised himself as he unplugged his cell phone from where he was charging it. He had some calls to make.
How do you think the already introduced characters (Sandra, Lizzy, Jasper, Dupe and the two siblings ) are all connected?
Take a guess in the comment section of the blog.
In general, share your thoughts about this series.
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I once again apologize for not publishing this episode at the scheduled date. My work schedule has been so tight lately. I may not publish this series on Tuesdays but I will do well to always make it available to you.
Thank you very much for understanding.