Mitaire died today shattering many hearts to pieces. Her mom and dad wailied like an infant, while her siblings, friends, teachers and lovers took it upon themselves to go crazy since the sad flew to the air. Even the passers-by who ordinarily would never have any business in Mr. Udafe’s compound had joined the mourning family, trooping in and out with hands held across shoulders in pity.
These shoulders shrugged disdainfully as the sympathisers’ mouths spat an ocean of saliva at death. For it was an omen never heard of in Ishekiri town where death of this nature was often considered horrible particularly for a family like the Udafes who didn’t, up til this moment, see any reason Mitaire should be prematurely sent to her early grave.
“Of all people in this community, why Mitaire, my daughter?” Lady Oviereya sobbed from her seat. Where her heart wracked with pains as she lifted her hazy eyes to Detective Kwenu who sat across her with a stoic face and some deep cold eyes that didn’t have any trace of tears.
He had been sent by the Police Department to interrogate the family or anyone related to Mitaire in any way. This was what Kwenu had come to do but the family’s tears could not allow him concentrate.
Gently, he rouse from his seat and walked up to Lady Oviereya with a small recording device he brought out from his pocket. He had had enough of the tears.
“Madam, could you please calm yourself and lead me into the details of what happened to your daughter? I need to know!” Kwenu said while fixing his cold stare against Oviereya’s teary eyes.
Oviereya gathered a little strength like one who had much to explain but only ended up blurting,
“Mitaire doesn’t deserve to take her life… she had no reason to do that. I believe someone murdered my daughter and framed it as a suicide”
Every eyes in the interrogation room rolled to her.
“What didn’t we do for her?” Lady Oviereya mumbled in between tears before taking a pause. “We gave her a good life as a beloved parents who loved their daughter.” She continued. “Tell me, if we didn’t, how could she have earned a contestant place at the recently concluded Miss Delta State beauty pageantry. How could she have won the most recent Miss All Campus Nigeria? Whoever did this to me will never see good things in life,” she continued to wail as thick mucus gushed down her nostrils.
Detective Kwenu stared at her without blinking. Perhaps trying to access her testimonies which were mixed with emotion and grief. This was one of his ways of investigating mysterious cases but it was difficult to tell if the sorrowful woman before him was lying or telling the truth. Obviously, Lady Oviereya wasn’t cooperative enough as she kept skipping the questions thrown to her and answering what no one asked.
A frustrating sigh escaped Kwenu’s mouth.
“Madam!” He called out in a husky voice. The whole family and friends stared at him — all ready to be interrogated but not until Kwenu learned to take things easy. It wasn’t like anyone here could give a reliable testimony of how and why Mitaire took her own life. Or would they?
“Madam, could you please focus on my first question. I asked who you are to Mitaire? And why I should believe you know nothing about her death?” Kwenu asked and quickly raised his recording device up. “You can start now” he added in a gentle soothing voice that made many think he had realised how best to do his job.
Lady Oviereya cleared her throat, “I am the Mother of Mitaire Udafe. I’d been married for twelve years before giving birth to Mitaire. I’d visited prayer houses and churches. Gone through series of prayers, fasting, and assignments. At a time, I even went the native way and took some herbs.
You wouldn’t blame me. I was a desperate woman in need of a child. Society was on my neck. I hated being a topic for the discussions of idle women whenever I walked through town. And my husband was on the verge of getting a second wife. He mentioned it in passing.”
A quick interruption came. “Me? Another wife? Over my dead body! Such thoughts never crossed my mind.” Prof. Oghenetega Udafe shrugged his shoulders.
Officer Kwenu shifted his gaze to see where the outburst had come from. “Kindly introduce yourself properly please.”
“I apologize for the outburst. I am Prof. Oghenetega Udafe and the father to the deceased. It’s true my family was pressuring me to take another wife. My mother constantly sang them to me, that she needed grandchildren. As though her other children weren’t already giving her grand kids. People ridiculed me. For skies sake, even those whom I shared kegs of palmwine with made jest of my loins. But a second wife was never an option.” He cleared his throat and continued. “See, polygamy sent my father to an early grave. I wasn’t going to tow that line.”
Lady Oviereya started again, “Mitaire means I have achieved or I have reached their match.” She laughed in an odd way. “My enemies needed to know.”
“Oh, how much I loved that name” Asaroyoma Jeroh, another middle-Aged lady stepped in.
Kwenu narrowed eyes to her.
“Oh, I’m Mitaire’s school teacher. She was was…” Asaroyoma paused and sobbed. “She was the sweetest and brightest child I’d ever come across. She had this big, round eyes that never seemed to dim. Her smile was infectious. And she could charm everyone and anyone. I remember something.
“One time during break. She must have been seven or so. She walked up to me and said, ‘aunty, are you sad?’ At first I didn’t respond because I was stunned at how little she was and how she was able to see right through me. After about a minute or two, I nodded in affirmation. She then asked if she could sing me a song. I laughed. My first real laugh in two days. You know the kind that comes from deep within your belly.” She wiped her eyes.
“Mitaire has always been a cheerful and smart girl even from her childhood,” Another lady said as she raised her hand and the recording device was turned to her. Officer Kwenu urged her to speak.
“I’m Efemena Udafe, the second daughter of the Udafes. Mitaire and I were just eighteen months apart and, to be honest, I sometimes envied her. It’s silly when I think of it now. As kids, everybody wanted to be friends with us, but you could tell the only person they actually wanted to be friends with was Mitaire. She had this cool personality and was really pretty too. You could sight it from any distance. Even as teens, Mitaire, Isio and I, will walk the streets and the boys will always turn our way. But Isio and I knew well that nobody really saw us. They only saw Mitai.” She turned away.
“Who is Isio?” Kwenu asked scanning eyes about.
“I am Isio Udafe,” a youngish lady said from behind and Kwenu motioned her to come close. She did.
“I am the third daughter of the Udafes,” Isio continued. “Here’s something I’ve never told anyone. Make sure it’s a part of the narrative. Sometime last year I got pregnant. I dared not mention it to my parents nor my sister, Efe,—that girl is always in her own bubble. Doesn’t care much about whatever is going on around her. We never really got along—So I called Mitaire.
“By the way, I was fifteen and Mitaire was eighteen. I’ve always thought of her as my second mother. So I said to her ‘I’m pregnant and I’m scared. I don’t know what to do.’ The other end of the line went quiet for the longest two minutes of my life. Over here I was fiddling with anything I could get my hands on. I was super nervous. The next thing she asked was ‘who’s the father?’ I said ‘Henry, our neighbors houseboy.’ She went quiet again before saying, ‘So what do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. What do you think I should do?’
And she said, ‘we both know what it is you want to do. And believe me, I’m ready to support you no matter your decision.’
She added, ‘but here’s my wish, I wish you can keep this baby. Look at it on the brighter side; when you’re thirty your daughter would be fifteen, my first child would probably be five. See?’
I laughed because I didn’t see anything. I asked what made her think it’s a girl.
And she said, ‘Aunty instincts’
I shut my eyes and tried to picture it all — me as a mum and she as an aunt. Then I saw father’s glare and mother’s teary eyes.
I said to her, ‘I can’t. I cannot jeopardize my entire future like this.’
That was it. Two days later Mitaire came to Warri and we scouted a good hospital.”
Just then, Isio darted eyes to a light skinned girl in the room. She glared at her as if the girl had something to add to her confession.
Detective Kwenu immediately flooded a domineering stare at the girl.
“I am Princess Briggs,” the girl frighteningly said. “Mitaire’s best friend. I shared a flat off campus with Mitai in Port Harcourt, so I can tell you firsthand the girl was torn. The news Isio broke to her ripped her apart. But she couldn’t let Isio see it. She had to be the big sister. After she returned from Warri, Mitaire cried herself to sleep every night. She blamed herself for the decision Isio took and for not being able to stop her. She felt she had let down the one person who looked up to her for everything. Mitai didn’t go home for some months. I don’t think she ever got over the guilt of not disclosing it to the family. Sometimes I wondered if Isio felt as much guilt as Mitai did.”
Isio started again, “Eight months after the abortion, Mitaire came home. But something was different about her.”
“She was distant.” Said Mr. Udafe. “Her smile was most of the time forced. And She isolated herself a great deal. Locked herself up doing what only heavens know.”
Lady Oviereya chirped in, “I tried to find out what the problem could have been. But she assured me she was fine, her exams were coming up and she needed to study.”
“I noticed something was off about Mitaire three days after she came home. I thought it was cramps. She usually got that way in her pink days of the month.” Efemena said.
Isio’s eyes had turned red from tearing as she began to say, “One day, I decided to go into her room. I found her crouched by the wall, her head pinned to her knees. She was crying. I got down on both knees and touched her. She lifted red, swollen eyes to look at me.
And she said, ‘I’m sorry.’
I didn’t know what she was sorry for, but that I’d never seen my sister cry. Being so vulnerable. It broke something in me.
Over the next few weeks, Mitaire appeared to have leveled out and loosened up a bit. Being the current Miss All Campus Nigeria, and on Princess’s advice, she signed up for the Miss Delta State pageant.”
“I’ll come in now.” Princess requested. “By the time we got back to school, results from the previous semester was out. And Mitaire had six carryovers out of eight courses. You needed to have seen her. She was devastated. I could see it behind the facade she tried putting up — she claimed to be okay. Truth is, nothing was okay. Mitaire had never earned a carryover. How do you imagine she was handling six? And that’s not all. Caleb, her boyfriend of fourteen months, called their relationship off. That made things worse.”
“Who is Caleb?” Detective Kwenu asked as he surveyed the room.
“I am,” a young boy of about 20 years said looking guilty. “All I’m going to say is this, I loved Mitaire very much. And whatever I did, I did for her benefit. I fell in love with a confident and independent woman. So when she became too needy and clingy, and her self esteem started to waver, I decided we slow down. I had hoped a few months break would show her she didn’t need anyone to live. Obviously, I was wrong.” Caleb concluded with tears.
“Seeing how everything was happening at the same time — Isio, the school, and Caleb —I suggested she run for Miss Delta State.” This was Princess speaking in between tears. “You’ve seen her strut the runway before. While everybody else shone like gold, she shone like diamond. The runway was made for her. She always took charge of it. I guessed it’s what she needed to get out of that fog. Towards the end of the competition, Mitaire pulled out. Leaving fans, family, friends, and the entire Delta state in utter confusion.” Princess added.
Isio wiped her tears and said, “I wasn’t sure what went wrong.”
Prof. Udafe began again, “I was glad she decided to quit. I never really appreciated seeing my daughter parade in mere undies.”
“I wasn’t aware of the quit. I was at a conference in Lagos.” Lady Oviereya mumbled in surprise.
“She came straight home and wouldn’t talk to anyone. I was mad at her. My Instagram DM was buzzing. Everybody wanted to know why she quit.” Efemena was saying.
“One day she called and said I should come to Warri, there’s this new eatery she wanted us to try.” Princess took over the narration. “Believe me I thought that was weird. A part of me wanted to insist she gets her ass back to school. Another part thought I could just go to Warri, we try this new eatery, and the next day I would drag her back to Port Harcourt with me. At that, my folks were based in Warri too.”
“Ues, I remember. It was a Saturday.” Isio interrupted. “I had no idea what plans they had. But I snuck Princess aside and told her how Mitaire had been since the Miss Delta episode. She said she was going to get her open up.”
” Mitaire seemed perfectly fine to me.” Princess resumed again. “I mean we laughed and talked like normal. We tried the new eatery, it wasn’t so great. We also visited the local park and the market too. So I figured there was no need bringing up old wound. We could always talk about it later.”
“She returned with gifts for all of us. And I noticed there was a shift in her countenance. She was back to the Mitaire I knew. This was about 6.pm.” Efemena said.
“I’m not sure what time it was when I passed by her room and saw the door slightly open. I felt a surge of hope. On my way back I decided to peep in.” Isio began again.
“I was in the living room when Isio screamed. It was loud and terrifying. I took the staircase two steps at a time.” Efemena chirped in.
“She was up there. Still in the short white dress she had worn out.” Isio paused and cleaned mucus almost dropping off her nose. “Her neck tied to the fan. Her eyes open. Her tongue stuck out. It was an awful sight.”
“Dad came in there and passed out.”
“It was exactly 7:42p.m when Isio called. I’d been catching up on Eastenders. I began to panic when I realised she was sobbing.” Princess’ month leaned close to the recording device as she talked.
Isio said Mitaire is dead. My sister just hung herself.’
I don’t remember saying anything. Although, I know my eyes were still glued to the TV screen, but I wasn’t making out any pictures.”
“I was in Lagos for three weeks. On getting home I was told that my daughter is gone. I couldn’t believe it. I still don’t believe it. My daughter will come home to me. I’m sure of that. Mitaire. Is. Not. Dead.” Lady Oviereya said in confidence.
“I’m sorry I can’t go on. This is hard on me.” Mr. Udafe managed to say.
“The pain is still feels fresh because every second reminds me that my best friend is gone. It’s like knives poking at my chest. Mitaire was a beautiful human. In and out. She wasn’t perfect. No one is. But she was her own kind of perfect. She would forever be loved.” Princess wailed.
“As a father I’m devastated. But as a man I need to put myself together. People come and go. I only pray that God gives my wife the grace to come to terms with the truth, and to go through this trying time.” Mr. Udafe consoled while raising a piece of paper to Detective Kwenu. “This note was found on Mitaire’s bed. I’ll read it aloud.
To Mother, I love you
To Father, you were a role model
To Isio, forgive me
To Efemena, you’re beautiful. If only you knew.
To Princess, in our next lives I hope we cross paths.
I’m sorry I pushed you all away
I’m sorry I betrayed your trust
My time ends now.
I’ll send you all as many blessings as I can from the other side.”
Everyone wept. Officer Kwenu has lost his tough-man vigour. At this point, he couldn’t hold back tears as he lowered his head to weep.