Distance Episode 13

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Dimeji was right, as Tobi later
discovered. Before they parted ways,
Dimeji had told Tobi of the various
DNA samples that could be used to
determine paternity. Tobi had been
apprehensive at first, thinking that
they would need to draw the child’s
blood.
But Dimeji had set her mind at ease.
There were less invasive, painless
methods, which were just as effective,
and he shared this information with
her. He had learned about these other
methods while visiting the lab in Aba,
and they told him what he needed to
bring, including the documents he had
to present. There would be no need to
obtain the mother’s consent because
as Dimeji reasoned, Enitan would
certainly withhold her consent, if she
knew his plans.
Later that evening, while Tobi was
washing her clothes and deliberating
on everything they had discussed, an
idea occurred to her. By the time she
met with Dimeji the following day,
they came up with a formidable plan
to once and for all, lay to rest this
question of paternity.
Chief Fasola was turning 57 in
November of that same year, and was
having a fairly large birthday party to
mark the special occasion. The party
was ‘fairly large’ because it was going
to hold in his own compound, which
could comfortably sit hundreds of
people. A larger crowd would have
required them to rent an events hall,
but Chief planned to do that when he
turned 60.
Nonetheless, like he had done with
every birthday celebration since he
turned 50, each guest would receive
an invitation card. The invitation
card was just a formality; everyone
knew that half of the people who
would show up were uninvited. But
they would not be turned away. So,
provision was made for them as well.
Tobi suggested to Aunty Priscillia, that
they should invite the school teachers
at Graceville College for the birthday
party. Aunty Priscillia, who had no
inkling of their plan, agreed
wholeheartedly. It would be a way of
saying “Thank you” for giving their
children quality education, she told
Tobi. Tobi also made sure that the
teachers were told to bring their
family members, especially their
children, as there would be special
games and gifts for the children. It
was this part of Tobi’s suggestion that
piqued her aunt’s curiosity and put
the older woman on her guard,
unbeknownst to Tobi.
“I wonder what this girl is up to,”
Auntie Priscillia thought to herself. “I
will watch her closely. She can’t hide
forever.”
From that day forward, Auntie
Priscillia watched Tobi more closely
than before. Tobi who was not aware
of the attention she had drawn to
herself continued with the plan that
she and Dimeji had carefully crafted.
Tobi confirmed from Godwin and also
her cousins, that Enitan , the Biology
teacher had received an invitation to
the birthday party along with all the
other teachers.
“Now, all we have to do is watch and
pray,” Tobi thought.
Having warned Dimeji not to come
anywhere near the house on the day
of the birthday party, to avoid
drawing Enitan’s suspicion,
Tobi continued to help her aunt
prepare for the the-day.
The day finally arrived. Although
Chief ‘s official birthday was
November 14, the party was held on
Saturday, November 16, because
November 14 fell on a Thursday. Her
aunt and uncle wore matching outfits,
with Chief donning his traditional red
cap, in addition to the special
ceremonial beads he usually wore.
The party was scheduled to start at
1:00 pm. Most people did not arrive
until two hours later. Tobi got up as
early as 6 am to assist her aunt with
the food preparations. By the time the
party started, she was quite tired! She
was tempted to go and lie down for a
few minutes, but the fear of over-
sleeping and ruining their plan kept
her awake. Her aunt had put her and
Chikodi in charge of the children’s
entertainment. There were several
rented canopies in the yard for the
adults, but the children were taken
indoors to the children’s parlor, which
was upstairs.
Initially, they had planned to put the
children under a tent in the
compound, and had even hired a
clown to entertain the children. But
when the clown did not show up, they
took the children upstairs to what was
supposed to be a more controlled
environment.
As at the time they moved the children
upstairs, Enitan had not arrived. In
fact, Tobi had grown pensive and was
already having second thoughts about
this arrangement, when she stepped
onto the balcony and looked towards
the gate.
At that moment, she saw a tall,
attractive dark-skinned woman,
holding onto a toddler, come through
the gate. From the pictures Dimeji had
shown her, she knew this woman was
Enitan, and deduced that the little
child with her was Tomiwa, her son.
They were accompanied by another
man, who appeared to be Enitan’s
guest. They sat together the entire
time.
As soon as she saw the child, Tobi felt
guilty about what she was going to do
to him. But, she stilled herself and
decided that the end justified the
means.
After Enitan and her guest were
comfortably seated and eating,
Tobi sent Rita to fetch Tomiwa. That
was the protocol they had adopted for
the other children as well. He
reluctantly left his mother and looked
like he was going to cry, but after she
told him that big boys don’t cry, he
marched off with Rita, like a little
soldier.
When Rita brought him upstairs,
Tobi immediately went to him. She sat
with him and played with him, made
sure he ate and warmed up to her.
Tomiwa was not a fussy child, to
Tobi’s delight, and drawing on the
experience she had working with
children in church, she knew just what
to do to gain his trust.
All this while, Auntie Priscillia had
been watching tobi. She noticed the
special interest that Tobi took in one
particular little boy, and took a few
minutes to join them upstairs. Tobie
saw her aunt in the children’s parlor,
but did not suspect anything. She was
waiting for her opportunity. Like
clockwork, it came.
Tomiwa, who Tobi ensured drank lots
and lots of water, soon told her in that
half-formed English, which children
are known to use, that he needed to go
to the bathroom. This was the
opportunity Tobi had waited for, and
she moved quickly.
Instead of taking Tomiwa to the
visitor’s bathroom close by, she led the
toddler to her room and took him to
the adjoining bathroom instead.
After he had emptied his little bladder,
she took him to the desk beside her
bed, and asked him if he wanted to eat
sweets. Which child would ever turn
down such an offer? Certainly not
Tomiwa. His eyes lit up when he
heard the word “sweet.”
Nodding his head vigorously, he
started to chant in an excited voice:
“Sweet, sweet, sweet!”
Tobi was struck by the child’s
innocence.
“He has no idea what I am about to
do. May God forgive me and Dimeji,
and may God erase this episode from
this child’s memory,” Tobi prayed, as
she opened a drawer beside her bed.
She pulled out three clear plastic
zipper bags. Each bag had one clean
cotton swab inside it, the kind people
shove into their ears in the name of
cleaning out ear wax. Tobi opened the
first bag and pulling out the first
cotton swab told the child:
“Okay, before you eat any sweet,
auntie has to check to make sure your
mouth is clean enough, alright?”
The poor child nodded. He would do
anything for that candy. Tobi quickly
wore a pair of latex gloves and then
instructed the child:
“Oya open your mouth wide. Say
‘Ahhhh!’ ” said Tobi, holding the
cotton swab ready. As soon as
Tomiwa opened his mouth, she looked
past his milk teeth and gently used the
swab to swipe the inside of his cheeks.
Tomiwa almost bit her the first time.
“Auntie, tick-ying me,” he whined.
“I know it is tickling you. Don’t you
want to eat sweets?”
He nodded and let her re-try. She did
and retrieved the saliva-drenched end
of the cotton swab from the child’s
mouth. Placing it on top of the now
empty zipper bag, she moved on to the
second one.
She had just collected the second
sample, when the door burst open and
in walked Auntie Priscillia. She looked
very angry. Tobi, in her fright, had
mistakenly dropped the cotton swab
she had just retrieved on the floor.
“I should’ve locked that door! Well, it
looks like I won’t be using that swab,”
she thought as she faced her Auntie.
How would she explain what was
going on? Worse still, what if Auntie
Priscillia put a stop to everything?
What then?
The noise from the door opening
suddenly had also frightened Tomiwa
who began wailing loudly. Auntie
Priscillia picked up the child and
began to pat him gently on his back to
soothe him. While she was doing this,
she faced her niece.
“What do you think you’re doing,
Tobi?” she asked. “Why do you have
someone else’s child alone in your
room, trying to give him sweet? What
evil have you planned for this child
ehn?” Auntie Priscillia demanded
glaring at Tobi. Tobi knew she had to
tell the truth. So, she gave Auntie
Priscillia a two-minute summary of
what had transpired between her and
Dimeji, who the child was and why
they needed his DNA samples.
Auntie Priscillia calmed down slightly
when she found out it was just a cheek
swab Tobi was conducting. She had
feared it was something more sinister
like a blood sample. But the revelation
did not completely quell her anger.
“Why didn’t you tell me or your uncle
all this? What if someone else had
come in? You want to spoil my name
in this town? It’s not your fault.
Shebi you will just run back to Lagos
while those of us who live here will
face the music. That is your plan, isn’t
it?” she said to Tobi.
“Auntie, it’s not like that at all. I …
We just want to be sure, that is all.”
“And this is the only way to be sure?”
said Auntie Priscillia in disbelief.
“Auntie, this is the only way we
know.”
“Do your parents know about this?”
“Not yet, Auntie. I will tell them when
the time is right.”
By now, Tomiwa had stopped crying
and was sucking his thumb, oblivious
to the conversation that was going on.
“Assuming your plan works and you
find out that Dimeji is the father, what
then, Tobi? Will you stand by a man
who already has a child? Tobi, you’re
too young to be embroiled in this kind
of drama. See what he is already
putting you through at this stage. Who
knows what else will follow? No man
is worth all this trouble, I’m telling
you.”
“Auntie, Dimeji is worth all this
trouble,” said Tobi. “Remember
Mayowa, my ex? I can tell you how
many times I have compared Dimeji to
Mayowa , and the many ways I have
made Dimeji pay for Mayowa’s
mistakes. But through it all, he has
been patient. He understood just how
deeply I was wounded from that past
relationship and he was a crucial part
of the healing process. In fact, Auntie,
he still is . He stood by my side and
helped me regain my confidence,
made me feel wanted, loved. I can’t
just discard such a man like that.
Auntie, I hope you understand.”
Auntie Priscillia responded in the
affirmative.
“This thing you’re doing is very risky
and even after everything you said, it
still does not make complete sense to
me. But I know that you have to make
your own decisions. We, who have
been on this earth longer than you
have, cannot teach you everything.
There are some things you will have to
learn by experience. I just hope this
turns out to be a good lesson, not a
bitter one,” said Auntie Priscillia in a
grave tone, as she handed Tomiwa
back to Tobi and left the room.
“I hope so, too,” Tobi whispered as she
took two more cheek swabs. She used
an extra cotton swap from the stack in
another drawer. So, by the time she
was done, she had three separate DNA
samples from the child. She kept her
promise and gave Tomiwa a whole
pack of Cadbury chocolate eclairs,
before taking him back to join the
other children.
After that, she returned back to her
room and turned on the fan, waiting
for the samples to dry. This took
another forty minutes. Then, she put
them into the zipper bags, sealed
them, dumped the gloves in the
dustbin in her room and went to wash
her hands.
Grabbing her cell phone, she took the
bags downstairs to the kitchen. There
were several people in the kitchen.
Some were relatives helping with the
food, and some were guests who had
no business being there, but were
there nonetheless.
Tobi waited for a moment when no
one was looking at her, and slipped
the samples into a corner of the deep
freezer. Then, she grabbed a small
cooler, packed it with ice and texted
Dimeji to wait outside the gate. By
then, it was nearly 4:00 pm.
Tobi took the samples out of the
freezer, put them in the cooler and
went outside to meet Dimeji. On her
way, she saw Enitan and a shiver ran
down her spine. If this woman knew
who she was or what she was carrying
in that cooler, she would not be sitting
down so calmly.
Dimeji was nervously pacing in front
of the gate. As soon as he saw Tobi,
he heaved a sigh of relief, thanked her
profusely and collected the cooler
from her. Aba was at least three hours
away, but the lab did not close until
9:00pm, being a Saturday.
“God speed, Dimeji. Call me when you
get there, okay?” Tobi said to him as
he got into the car.
“I will. Wish me luck.”
As Tobi watched the car pull away, she
knew that the next time she saw
Dimeji, the document he would have
in his hand would change their lives
forever.
She retired indoors and tried to enjoy
the rest of the party, but found it
difficult. Plus, Auntie Priscillia still
looked like she wanted to slap Tobi in
spite of her explanations, so she
avoided her for the rest of the day.
Her mind did not rest that day until
Dimeji called her around 8:00 pm to
tell her that he had arrived safely in
Aba and had successfully delivered the
samples to the lab. Now, they just had
to wait for one week to know the
results.
That entire week felt like seven
months to Tobi. It seemed to drag on
forever not just because of the
anticipated news, but also because
they had agreed not to see or talk to
each other until the test results were
ready.
Seven days passed, and the time came
for Dimeji to give Tobi the much-
anticipated news. He walked up to
her gate and as soon as she heard the
loud knock on the gate that afternoon,
she knew who it was.
What was the result? Checkout in the last
episode
– to be continued –