"I can't leave him behind o, who knows when he will be coming back home at night" I overheard my mum telling my dad "if he doesn't want to tag along, you mustn't force him. Besides, he is no longer a baby" smiling from ear to ear, feeling happy that my Dad considers my decision important, I went back to packing, making sure nothing of importance is left behind. Getting a glimpse of my phone, I realized it needed to be charged, I can't trust village electricity. I hurried off to the" barber next door" shop to charge my phone and power bank. Within a twinkle of any eye, I was back home to continue with the finishing touches of packing.
"Aah ihe ole ji nkita onwu(what is preventing the dog from dying?" My dad said some minutes later, his voice cool but a bit higher than normal with the intention of getting everyone's attention. Something he usually does whenever we are going out as a family and it's time to depart. "I am through o" came from some of us while the rest chorused "It's remaining small". With the speed of light, I was out and back with my phone and power bank. A few minutes later, we(my two siblings and our parents) were on our way to the village, a peaceful place to be. I would have been happier if we were going for other events but burial.
Three days later, we were safely back home to meet it the way we left it with a slight change in the atmosphere. I could sense trouble. "did u take the phone, I mean they are accusing you of stealing Jerry's phone," asked our neighbour's daughter Amaka when I stepped outside after putting back my properties to its original position "not like I believed them though" she added hastily avoiding my stare. What a shame, I see the doubt in her eyes. "They already called and asked me when I was in the village..." I sighed moving away from our door. Can't afford to let my parents know of the accusation. "Believe me, I didn't take that phone. What will I do with his phone when I have got an iPhone?" I asked trying to make her see the reason why I wouldn't steal that scrap of a phone "but they said you sent Kelvin(her 10-year-old brother ) to return his cord" she said flummoxed not sure of what to believe. Not like I cared about the accusation but I still needed at least one person to be convinced am innocent "I sent him to return the cord when I found out it doesn't belong to me" with a finality tone I added, "think of it na, even a baby knows not to leave obvious traces when they commit a crime like this" starting towards the gate down the street. It's her cup of coffee if she doesn't believe me, surely the truth will surface at the end, after all, nothing is hidden under the sun.
Tired of staying indoors all day, a thought of going for an evening stroll crossed my mind, remembering the accusatory stare on the neighbours' eyes the last time I went out, I swiftly directed my attention back to the movie I was watching.
"Yes, who is there?" Inquired my younger sister of 18years in response to a knock at the door. I couldn't help but wonder who it could be, peeping through the window I saw him, Jerry. What on earth is he doing at our house, didn't I tell him I have got nothing to do with his stupid phone. With a sour mood, I walked back to my bed. If he has come to accuse in front of my family, he has got to be mental. Not like I cared, the only problem is, I had acquired a new phone recently in a way my family wouldn't approve of and it's made known to them same day Jerry had lost his phone. I had lied that a friend of mine dashed it to me since he got a new one, and now, I guess I have to be sincere, I hope they believe my innocence " Ikem!!!" Called my dad from downstairs. "Sir" I yelled back trodding towards the parlour
Every member of my family was already at the sitting room when I got there, all wearing an inquisitive look on their faces, each silently wondering why Jerry had visited. I don't blame them, they ain't the type to mingle with people, if not they would have heard the rumour by now. Taking a seat beside my dad, I greeted "Jerry good evening sir" though I didn't feel like doing so he merited it, I mean, he is close to 30 if not more than that while I just clocked 20. "Eh he" he responded "Sir like I said earlier I came to complain about something" referring... Clears throat... On Friday I had gone to charge my phone at the same place with Ikem, I couldn't find space so I decided to insert my cord to his charger since it has an extra USB port after finding out he is the owner, when I came back for my phone I found out it was gone same with the charger. I asked people present at the shop but none agreed to have taken it so, I concluded since Ikem's phone was no longer there that he must have taken mine along with his. I was later told that he had sent Kelvin to return my cord same day, what I don't understand is him telling me he didn't take my phone, why....." "I have told you I didn't take ur phone" I interjected a bit angry. If not for my parents I would have walked out on him straight to my room. "My friend keep quiet" yelled my Dad irritated at my behaviour" "story" I murmured in my mind.
From the corners of my eyes, I saw the look on my siblings' faces, the "I hope it's not true" look. There was an awkward silence when Jerry finally conclude his last accusatory speech coupled with the eagerness to hear my side of the story " it's now ur turn" said my dad.
" on Friday when we were about to travel... " I started narrating "....so I discovered someone was using my charger to charge his phone when I went back to check if it was still charging, thereby slowing the charge rate of my phone, I was initially angry but when I discovered he ...pointing towards Jerry...owns the phone, I let it be. On returning to the shop, I discovered his phone was gone, thinking he had taken it I collected my phone and power bank and headed straight home. Later on, my friend came with a cord claiming he had taken it at the barbering saloon to charge his phone" with a brief pause to enable them assimilate my story, I forged on" a closer look at the two cords, I realized I had taken someone's cord, probably his...pointing towards jerry.....so I sent Kelvin to return it to the saloon since there was no time to do so myself ". Sitting up straight I added" I don't know anything about his phone disappearance, why would I steal his phone when I have got a better one. Besides, I wouldn't steal something I am above. If I wanna steal, I would steal something that would be worth the stress" searching their faces to know if they believed me. Of course, they wouldn't believe me, they had seen me with a second phone same Friday, a phone whose story of ownership they hadn't quite believed. "That's my point exactly... Chuckling... Why would someone take my phone which is inferior and leave yours that's superior?, an iiphhone for that o" Jerry said stressing the iPhone "if it were to be your siblings I would have believed them but you have stolen someone's phone in the past so I'm finding it difficult on what to believe. Every arrow is pointing toward..."
That's it, I can't sit back and take any of his insults again " look here, it's obvious u don't like the respect I have shown u so far, I have told you I didn't take ur phone. I don't fucking care what u believe or not. If whatever that's in your phone is as important as u claimed, you better go out there and investigate those present that day rather than waste your time here " standing up, I continued slightly facing towards the stairs "tell me, haven't u ever done something wrong which u later repented from? That I took a phone when I was barely 15 doesn't mean I took yours. I am grown up now, I work now and I can afford anything I want, if I can't afford anything I want, I don't bother about them. Stop slandering about me. When you visited your native doctor, why didn't you tell him to show you who the real culprit(s) is/are and make them return your phone to you? What happened to praying to God? Christians...." "If you know what's good for you better get your ass back on the sofa," said my irritated dad trying to be calm, turning to Jerry, he asked, " what's the model of your phone?"
"What is the model of the phone Ikem was with in the village," he asked again, this time around looking towards my sister's direction
" Itel " she replied flummoxed as well not sure of what to believe. Turning to my mum, I saw she was heartbroken, the look in her eyes says it all, the "but I thought he has changed" kind of look. I knew deep down they are wishing I was innocent, I wish they could just believe me even if others didn't but of course, they wouldn't do so without an investigation, they wouldn't want to jump into conclusion simply because I am family not after I had done something like this in the past.
"So tell us how you came about the phone," asked my dad this time around paying keen attention to what I have to say
" I bought it from a friend that lives nearby Ebuka, the one that stays at no.6 Agu street " I replied hoping they won't remember the false answer I gave them at the village
Even if they do, at least let them not make it known to Jerry. From the corners of my eyes, I saw a furrow appear on my dad's face, something he does whenever he is trying to think. That very instant I knew the chance of them believing in my innocence has rocketed down the hills
"Hmm.....you bought it? How much?" Asked the youngest of us Oluebube in total disbelief
"Four thousand naira(4000N)" I replied
"Is there a deal between you two? Why did he sell it at a low price" asked my mum but before I could give a reply my dad already sent my sister to call Ebuka immediately. Not being able to confirm from Ebuka, my dad dismissed Jerry with the promise of finding out the truth when Ebuka returns.
The rest of the evening went without a word from any member of my family, not even my sister who has always believed in the goods of people. Lying down on my bed with the cooling effect of the air conditional situated at the top right corner of the room, erasing the erupting volcanic anger in me, I couldn't help but wander on the memories of the past, there on the very page of the day of the theft which I had committed, I saw the younger me helping her Ela(the owner of the missing phone) search for the phone which I had nipped, saw myself calming her down. Astaghfirullah, I flinched at the sight of us accusing an innocent man behind his back since he was the last to be seen close to the phone before its disappearance, though I hadn't accused him myself but I had concurred to the accusation. What a shame how people in our circle are sometimes the roots of our problem. I progressed to the part where the truth was revealed. Ela had come to our house along with her mum and a man who had come from state CID after some days to inform my mum they had tracked the phone down to me, the pain reflected in her(my mum) eyes was one not to be forgotten in a hurry, she had pleaded on my behalf with a broken heart. I have always been the stubborn one, always bringing problem for the family but stealing was never a thing they had expected from me, not after the moral upbringing. Thou I wasn't arrested but the story had spread like wildfire in the neighbourhood and that was the first and last time I thought of stealing in my life
Propelled back to the present by regrets of my actions in the past, I sat up straight to connect the dots, how could I have turned this bad?. No matter how hard I try to blame my friends for my behaviour, I still couldn't, it's my fault I wasn't wary of the kind of people I select as friends, my fault I let them influence me negatively, my fault I see myself as "eze onye agwa na mu(king that doesn't take people's opinion)" when people tried talking me into becoming better. Thanks for maturity, now I know better, I have greatly improved. Lying back again I silently prayed for God to reveal the truth so that my name would be cleared. The following day my dad sent out word to Jerry telling him he believes in my innocence after Ebuka's side of the story was heard, the joy it brought to my heart knew no bound. My mum wanting to be sure they are not making any mistake came to my room asking if I in any way know anything about the missing phone, insisting I have got nothing to do with it, she let me be adding "nothing is hidden under the sun, God will surely reveal the truth, your name will be cleared. It's just a matter of time" before walking out of the room. I hope it doesn't take too long.
"He wouldn't have gone through that stress if the contents of the phone aren't important," said my sister some days later over dinner. "That town crier kept repeating himself," I said keeping the conversation going "of course, I bet Jerry must have told him to stress on the consequence of what happens to the thief If he doesn't return it within the stipulated time" replied her gulping down water "do you think people are going to believe his tale of visiting a native doctor? Like he is a known member of the Church" Oluebube posed hoping we would see from his perspective "didn't mum say she dreamt where the phone was found?" If there one person never to joke with their dreams, it's my mum, her dreams are like revelation, with my question, they had no other option than to drop the topic. "The other day as I was coming back home I met this guy...…." Here she goes again, telling stories of how boys approach her is something we hear all the time, especially the funny ones. "He even talked about marriage...shows false puking sign... Someone you just met and you already promising heaven and earth. Some guys need tutoring on how to toast a lady..." She went on and on till we retired to our different rooms.
It's beginning to seem that whosoever that took the phone has concluded not to return it, though the tension has gone down but not the curiosity, people still wanted to know the culprit, some hoping something bad would happen to me, those who believe I stole the phone, not until the rumour "the phone has been found" started flying around. How and when it was found, we didn't know. My family heard the rumour as well but we all expected Jerry to inform us of the authenticity but, he never came. What a shame, a full-grown man who had thought it wise to impersonate me in my house with my family present didn't give it a second thought to come let us know the outcome, if I hadn't asked him when I met him on road, we wouldn't have known the truth. That doesn't bother me, the most important thing is; I have been vindicated, my name has been cleared.
A story by Aziude Chikaosolu