There wouldn’t have been anything unusual about Max coming home from school by 11:26 in the morning. Everyone in the house has come to terms with his habit of leaving school anytime he feels like but still his mother kept an eye on him to ensure a change. Besides, she can’t help but acknowledge the fact that Max has never come home with anything but the best of results at the end of each school term, so his return from school this day wouldn’t have drawn any attention but he had the kind of look that stops you on your tracks – no matter how much of a hurry you are in.
He went straight to the kitchen where he expected to find Gideon, the housekeeper.
“Good day Uncle Gideon, please where is my mother?” He asked on seeing Gideon who had just finished making fish stew for lunch.
‘Maxie…’ Gideon was about to tease him as usual but the words died on his lips as he looked up and saw the look on his face. He hurriedly rinsed his hands and rushed to him.
‘Max, what is it? What happened to you?’
‘Where is my mother?’ he asked again, trying to relieve himself of his back-pack without success. With one quick move, Gideon relieved him of the bag and explained that his mother received an urgent call from her Chambers that her attention was needed.
‘But she’s on leave!’ he protested, grabbing his bag and heading for the sitting room where he flopped into a settee.
‘Tell me what is wrong with you’ Gideon persisted, but before Max could respond his mother walked in.
‘What are you doing home by this time? How many times have I spoken to you about leaving School…?’
Max was already on his feet and clinging to his mother the way he does when scared. ‘Mom, please I need to talk to you now’ he said it in a manner that conveyed something was wrong.
The mother observed him for a while wondering what could be wrong and thinking:
Everything about you reminds me of your father, even the way you sit!
Ray, Max’s father has the habit of perching at the end of the settee as if making room for two or three more people when he’s obviously the only one to sit and for a split second, she was looking at Ray and not Max.
‘Mom, why are you looking at me like that?’ His question jolted her out of her reverie. She loves her son – no, she adores her son and only Child, the exact replica of the man she loved so helplessly and if the truth be told, so stupidly, too.
‘How was I looking at you dear?’
‘Max’s forehead wrinkled as he searched for the right word to answer the question but couldn’t. ‘You were looking at me somehow; it was as if you were not seeing me’ he finished uncertainly.
She sat beside him and waited, without saying a word.
‘Mom, do you remember Nengi? The girl I told you about?’
‘The girl you told me about when?’
‘My schoolmate’ He prodded impatiently
‘Hmm, what is it this time?’ She remembered that afternoon when Max came bursting into her study to announce he had seen the girl he’s going to marry!’
Her jaw dropped,
‘The girl you are going to what?!’ She stared at him open-mouthed.
‘Marry’ he repeated without batting an eyelid.
‘Max! The mother cried, you are just 15+ and you’ve found a wife already?!’
‘I didn’t say I’m going to marry her now, I will do that after my studies, so, don’t worry mom. I just thought I should let you know that I’ve seen her’.
She was speechless.
‘What is it this time? Are you about to wed?’
‘Mom, her parents are taking her away’
‘That’s nice. Let them take her away…’
‘They’re taking her away because she tested positive to H.I.V test. Mom, I’m so scared…’
Eve sprang to her feet and grabbed her son so fiercely he screamed in pain.
‘Scared of what? She demanded emphatically.
‘Hey! Max, what have you been doing?’
‘Max watched his mother, surprised, sad and dumbfounded’
‘How many times did you lay with her, how many times?’
She screamed at him. ‘When? Where have you been meeting?’
‘I never lay with her mom. I know about sex but I’ve never tried it’ Max responded calmly’
That calmness when she’s all frenzy and near hysterics was another character trait Max shares with the father and she admires that to high heavens. Ray never reacts to anything she says, no matter how provoking. In fact, there were times she wondered if he heard her scathing remarks and sarcastic responses to his little talks to get her out of a bad mood. He didn’t listen much; he had very little patience for long talks but what he lacked there he made up the other way. He was always patient with her moods and responses.
Ray wasn’t expressive or so he portrayed himself, there was always that look in his eyes you couldn’t describe with one word; it was a mixture of expressions-interest, amusement, curiosity and God knows what else. What got to Eve the most was a particular look, the one that makes it seem like he’s seeing her for the very first time! but there was that thing in his voice that assures her he loves her much more than he has been able to express.
Eve loved Ray to a fault. Everything about him appeals to her. Friends and family often asked what the attraction really is for he wasn’t particularly good looking and finance wise, she was much better off than him for she was the only Child of Chief Mrs. Veronica Nmaeyen Henry Attah of Oron, fondly called and referred to as “Chief Mrs.” by all. Theirs was the kind of relationship that one could neither explain nor understand. While she roamed, her son watched her with concern.
‘Mom, are you alright?’
‘I should be asking you that question’
‘Don’t you believe me? I’m a virgin’
‘Then why are you scared? What are you scared of?’
‘I’m scared she may die’ He choked on the last word. ‘I don’t want her to die mom’ He buried his face on her bosom weeping.
Eve was at a loss at what to do. Max is not the crying type, in fact, her mother, Chief Mrs often commends the level of maturity with which he conducts himself but the little figure shivering in her arms was just a frightened little boy, the child that he really is.
‘Max, look at me, it’s alright. Your friend is not going to die, I’m sure her mother won’t let that happen’
‘Please I don’t want her to die’ he looked so miserable it tore Eve’s heart apart with concern and compassion plus a tinge of fear’
He tried to get a grip on himself. ‘Yes mom’
‘Please tell me, besides your concern that she may die, what else is actually bothering you?’
‘I don’t understand, what are you asking mom?’
‘You know what? We are going to see the doctor right away’
‘Mom!’ His voice was sharp and strained, why is it that you don’t believe me? I told you I did not lay with her, why don’t you believe me?
‘Max, I do believe you…’
‘Then why do you want to whisk me off to the doctor’s when there is nothing wrong with me?’
Eve scooped her son’s angry face upward; you are all I’ve got Max. I don’t want anything to happen to you. She rubbed her forehead tiredly.
‘If you insist nothing has happened between you and the girl, I believe you’
Max understood that gesture too well. She’s either tired or weary of whatever she’s dealing at the time.
‘Let me get you a drink mom’ he hurried towards the Fridge.
She couldn’t help smiling, ‘that’s my darling but don’t bother with the drink. You go and change and join me for lunch in an hour. I need to send a couple of emails and set up an important Skype meeting. We’ll talk later, okay?’
‘Ok, mom. Please don’t worry about me, I am fine. Is there anything we can do to help my friend?’
‘You mean your wife?’
‘C’mon mom, she’s not yet my wife’
‘We’ll talk about that later this evening, I promise’
‘Thanks, mom, you are the best’ He picked his bag and headed for his room sad and very worried about his friend Nengi.
Eve sat alone for a while, trying to understand what could be happening to her son.
Infatuation can look like the real thing and it can be very confusing for teenagers and young people. ‘He will soon get over it she mutters to herself and then she smiles thinking:
“My son is a person of deep emotions and he has a sense of commitment! Instead of running from the girl, he’s here asking his mother to help.
Hmmn, she nods satisfactorily as she picks her bag and heads to the study.
Eve got engrossed with her tasks and lost track of time. Gideon’s gentle tap on the door startled her. He apologized and announced he served lunch nearly 40mins ago and that Max has been waiting.
‘Oh dear! Why didn’t you come earlier?’ She hurries to the dining apologizing profusely. Gideon chuckled
‘Aunty, why do you always apologize toMax and I like that at every little thing? You are older than we are. You don’t need to apologize’
‘Good question Gideon but very wrong assumption there. Good manners are not only for young people. I apologize the way I do because I want both of you to learn it. I want you boys to understand that it is important to know how and when to say “Sorry” and not take anybody for granted. Do you get that?’
‘Yes aunty’ Gideon responded.
‘Thank you, mom,’
Eve smiled at them and signal for Gideon to join them.
Like the story so far? See details below
Book Title: UNTAINTED
Author Name: Winnie Edmund Kanu