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“According to your mother, her name was Iretiola by the way, your father walked out of their relationship when she got pregnant with you. His excuse was that he wasn’t ready to settle down yet and he left her alone to cater for you when you eventually came. She did a good job of it too. You were just two when I met her at a work retreat in Ibadan, and although she was quite skeptical in the beginning, I managed to worm my way into her heart after a while with my persistence. She was older than me by five years, had witnessed first-hand how evil men could be from your father and the prejudice against dating single mothers from a couple of other guys she’d met before me, but still I managed to convince her in the end that I was legit, and she agreed to date me. You were such a cute girl, and I fell in love with your smile from the first day I saw you.”
His volume dropped a notch.
“I loved her so much, and we were happy together. She got pregnant again after we’d dated for seven months, and we started making plans for the altar so that we could be a real family. Sadly though, fate had other plans. My dear Ireti was knocked down by a drunk driver at Oshodi one sunny afternoon on her way to the hospital for her ante-natal appointment. That was how I lost her and your step – brother.”
Morenike suddenly burst into life.
“Wait, you mean…you mean the woman that bled to death in our sitting room, the woman we killed wasn’t my mother, and you’re not my father?”
“On both accounts, yes, that’s correct.”
She started walking around the room gesticulating as she moved.
“God! What else about my life don’t I know? What is true and what is make believe? What other secret lies in store for me to find out? Imagine, in just one day, I find out that the people I called my parents all my life are really not, and the person I used to believe was my best friend, my sister from another mother, once had a relationship with my father that she kept from me all these years? Sorry, with the man I used to believe was my father. What am I now supposed to hold on to? Somebody please help me here, before I go crazy.”
She looked from one person to the other. Rose looked away and covered her face with her hands while Femi looked perplexed. Only her father met and held her gaze.
“I married that woman you called ‘mother’ when you turned four, just so that I could have someone to help me take care of you. We were not in love, we barely even knew each other, but I needed help, and fast too. She on her part needed to be someone’s wife as she was in her early thirties at the time and was pretty desperate, although I didn’t know that part until much later. Things came to a head when she didn’t get pregnant after we’d been married for two years. We went for tests, and while she was given a clean bill of health, it was discovered that I had aspermia, something to do with a bicycle accident I had in primary school, and according to the doctor, could never father a child. I told him it was impossible, that my late fiancée had been carrying my baby when she died. He just laughed and told me the ways of women were trickier than I could ever understand. I was devastated. My wife on her part went completely ballistic, claiming I had tricked her into a fruitless marriage and ruined her chances of happiness. She wanted to leave, but I refused. Soon afterwards she started cheating openly; daring me to stop her so that she could tell the world I was an empty shell who couldn’t reproduce. For years I lived a life of hell, with no one to share my pain but you. On one side I hated the very memory of your mother, because I couldn’t for the life of me fathom how she could have been carrying another man’s child as mine. On the other hand I saw her daily in your beautifully innocent face every time you smiled, and would remember how much she loved me. I took to excessive drinking to wipe my sorrows away, and things steadily got worse. The fights and the constant abuse got so bad that I almost lost my mind. That night she died was probably the worst of my life, and till now I can’t even find a reason for what I did to you. I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me.”
Then he burst into tears.
Femi’s phone rang. He was in a different office, a much bigger one and seated behind a much bigger and a more expensive looking table.
It was Morenike on the line.
“Hi honey, how are you? Ready for lunch?”
Her voice had an apologetic tone as she replied.
“No loverboy, I’m not. I have this really crazy report I’m trying to complete and won’t be done for another hour. The boss has a meeting with our foreign partners later in the day and he’s on my neck to turn this piece in. Can you wait?”
“Of course I can, anything for my favorite girl.”
“You know that flattery will get you anything don’t you?”
“Yep, I do. My dad taught me well before he died.”
“Indeed. Speaking of dads, mine was why I called you.”
He immediately became serious.
“What happened? Is he okay?”
“Relax man, he’s fine. Sometimes I wonder if you are not more of his child than I am, always doting on him. Anyways, I’m proud to tell you that I’m going to stop being an only child very soon.”
“Wait, you mean….”
She didn’t let him finish.
“Yes baby. He just called me from the US. Loretta is pregnant!”
“What?! Wow! That’s good news. Congratulations my dear. We should celebrate.”
“Yes darling, we will. I’m sure he’s going to call you soon to break the news personally. I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for all you’ve done since you came into my life. You know he wouldn’t have gone for that corrective surgery if it hadn’t been for you, and I wouldn’t have forgiven him for all he did to me without your counsel. Thank you babes, for taking me as I was, for sharing my pain and cleaning my tears, for being my rock when I felt all was lost, and for everything. If I’d known you’d be this wonderful, I wouldn’t have pushed you away all those years.”
“Come off it dear. You know I’d do more in a heartbeat if that’s what it would take. You’re worth more than your weight in gold, and I was just smart enough to see that early. Meanwhile, with all this baby talk, isn’t it about time we started working on one of our own? My mother still called to ask what we were waiting for about an hour ago.”
“You’re a smooth one dude, really smooth, but I saw what you did right there.”
They both laughed this time.
“You know what, give me just a few more months to finally clear my head of all that’s happened and banish all my demons from days past. After I’m done, I promise I’ll be ready to make you as many babies as you want. Can you do that for me sugar?”
“Of course I can baby. I’ve waited this long anyways, a few more months won’t kill me.”
“That is exactly why you Oluwafemi, are my man. I’ll see you in another fifty-five minutes. Chinese, all you can eat, and it’s on me.”
“You got yourself a deal ma’am.”
The line clicked off.
Femi dropped his phone and swiveled his chair in the direction of the window, a smile playing on his lips. A bird flew past and he followed its upward progress until it disappeared from sight. He was in a happy place, and only one thought resonated in his mind. Good things really did come to those who wait.