At the Matthews’, expensive presents, jokes over the dinner table, several helpings of roast turkey, and pudding over a one-hour episode of Eastenders – in which one character was killed off, apparently killing off characters at Christmastime was excellent for the ratings – left Nadine feeling stuffed, and laughing till she cried. The activities couldn’t have been more different from what she was used to, but the spirit was very similar. She went to bed happy, and with her obligatory stomach-ache in place. The passing of the remainder of the month was swift, and on the first day of the New Year, Nadine walked into the living room to see her father sitting there. It took her a while to realise that she was not dreaming or hallucinating. She and Stella had returned from a night-club in the early hours of that morning, and slept in till midday. It turned out that Lucas and Melinda Matthews were aware of Ezekiel’s impending visit. He was eager to see his daughter and surprise her.
Nadine was very surprised, with good reason. Her father took her to Paris and proceeded to spoil her silly. Luxurious hotel suite with impeccable room service, scrumptious food in weight-inducing amounts … and the shopping. She only had to look at something, and it was hers. She had also remembered to get some things for Stella. Money was no object. And then, there was the fashion show. It happened that a client of Ezekiel’s, who had been blown away by the very personal and impeccable service she had received from his property management firm, was keen to show her appreciation. With no idea that the woman was well-connected, he had treated her like every other customer – someone who deserved to be given their money’s worth, whilst being treated decently. He thought nothing more of it – particularly after his invoice had been settled – and moved on to the next project. But on Christmas Eve, the lady’s chauffeur arrived with specific instructions, to hand-deliver tickets which afforded the holders entry to a fashion show in Paris … along with her profuse apologies for not showing her appreciation earlier. Ezekiel was truly flabbergasted – as far as he was concerned, customers’ appreciation was sufficiently shown in the prompt payment of their bills. He didn’t even expect tips; and he certainly didn’t expect his and his daughter’s names to be put on the guest list of an exclusive fashion show, just for carrying on his business as he normally did. But astute entrepreneur that he was, he knew a good opportunity when he saw one – although, like most men his age, Ezekiel did not understand ‘young people’s fashion’, he knew that Nadine would be thrilled to attend. And anything he could do to put another smile on the face of his only child, he was going to do. No price was too high, no depths too low.
Today, with more luggage to her name than she had thought it was feasible to acquire in three days, Nadine now looked forward to watching a movie. They would be watching it in his suite, as they had already been out to a cinema yesterday and Nadine wanted to spend time alone with her father on their last day in Paris. She would be returning to Bella Ray the following morning, and there was a good chance she wouldn’t see him till three months had elapsed. The thought of that made her sad, but she quickly brushed the feeling away. She was a daddy’s girl through and through, but she had managed to go the past three months without seeing him. She had even spent the Christmas holiday without either of her parents – something none of them had ever thought could happen before she got married – and none of them had died as a result. She knew she would miss her parents terribly during the next three months, but she was also sure the next three months would go by quickly; so was determined that depressing imaginations of what might be, would not spoil the certainty of her happiness tonight.
When she walked into her father’s hotel suite, she was surprised to see that the entire living room area had been turned into a temporary cinema. It wasn’t simply a matter of moving furniture about, and putting a DVD player in the middle of the room. She actually thought she was in someone’s private cinema. Ezekiel had to have enlisted the help and expertise of hotel staff – and heaven knows, who else – to bring this about.
“I thought that if we weren’t going to the cinema, the cinema could come to us.”
“How much did it cost?” she wondered out loud. She could almost hear Stella’s voice, Nadine, after a three-day non-stop spending spree, you’re going to worry about expense now?
“Money is just money,” Ezekiel said, “I think it’s made to be spent. I mean, what’s the point of having money if you can’t spend it – especially on your own child?”
That was one thing about her father. He was a typical African man in that sense – a lot of them believed that money was made to be spent. Some of them made the mistake of spending everything they made, but Nadine knew that her father’s generosity did not mean that they were frittering away her inheritance. He was too shrewd a businessman to let that happen, and he loved her too much to do that to her.
“Seriously, daddy, I would have been alright with just a DVD and popcorn.”
A shadow dented Ezekiel’s countenance.
“I am grateful,” she said hastily, “I’m just saying that spending time with you is all that mattered. I don’t need a … big production.”
“O otu ahu ka o di? Is that how it is now? Because I don’t remember you saying this, when we were cleaning out those boutiques, and the assistants were giving us funny looks until you mentioned that I was your father?” he teased.
“Daddy, it’s not my fault that those shop assistants had their minds in the gutter. And as for the things we got from the shops, please, don’t even go there,” she said, with a smile.
“But you said you didn’t need a big production.”
“Yves St Laurent, Vera Wang, Burberry, Versace and Dior are necessities,” she replied, half-seriously.
“Is that so?”
“Just remember that, when you’re considering a boy to go out with.”
“What? Daddy, you’re saying that if a guy doesn’t take me shopping in Paris, he’s not good enough for me?” she said, laughing.
“Amongst other things.”
“Daddy, only guys your age have this kind of money to spend. Surely you can’t expect me to only consider guys, my father’s age?”
“If any man, even half my age comes near you, I will kill him. And very gladly go to prison.”
“OK, daddy, there’s no need to get carried away. That was just a hypothetical question.”
“I know,” he smiled. Then he continued, “I don’t think any man will ever be good enough for you.”
She blinked when she saw that he was serious. “You want mummy to throw me out.”
“What for? Nobody can throw you out of your father’s house.”
“She’d probably be like Nadine, go to your own husband’s house and leave mine alone. I wouldn’t be very amused, too. Not that I want to get married now, obviously. So, some guy, somewhere in this world, has to be good enough.”
“Oby”, her father said, shortening the Igbo name he liked to use sometimes, Obiageli – which literally meant ‘she (who) came to eat’. Like every indigenous name given to a Nigerian child, this name was meant to allude to the circumstances surrounding her birth. As the first – and although it wasn’t known at the time, only – child of wealthy parents, she was named as someone who had ‘come to enjoy that wealth’.
“That’s what every father thinks. No other man can ever be good enough for his little girl.”
“I’m not a little girl,” she replied, “I’m 17.”
But Ezekiel shook his head. “You’ll always be my little girl. Even when you’re old and grey. I waited a long time … your mother and I were married 15 years before you came. When you’ve waited so long for something and you finally have it, it’s precious. It’s a blessing. That’s why your aunt also gave you the name Ngozi.”
“Yes, I am aware of the meaning of my name. Blessing. But it’s rare for fantasy to live up to reality,” Nadine said in a small voice, wise beyond her years.
Ezekiel looked at his only child and shook his head. “You are not a fantasy. Fantasies are fleeting. You are a reality. My reality. You are the best reality I could have had. The day you were born was the happiest day of my life. Since then, you’ve brought me nothing but happiness and good luck. Beyond my wildest dreams. I have such high hopes for you.”
FOREVER THERE FOR YOU by Chioma Nnani was released on Kindle in ALL Amazon markets by The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium Ltd, on 9 November 2016. It is also available on Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Okadabooks, and major online stores in EPUB and iBook formats. You can ask for a copy at your library via Overdrive.com. Alternatively, you could order by scrolling down and clicking on the ‘Buy’ button (if you’re on a mobile device) or scrolling up and clicking on the ‘Buy’ button in the side bar.
Chioma Nnani could be coming to a radio show or blog near you.
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