Kelvin released me from his arms and he went around to the other side of the car to open the door for me. I got into the car and fastened on my seat belt. He sat, staring at me, he leaned forward and claimed my lips again.
” I am never letting go of you again Tomi. I don’t think i can survive another heart attack such as the one you gave me weeks ago.”
” I won’t ever leave again, i promise you”.
” I won’t have peace of mine until you become mine legally, to hold and love.”
He rolled the car out of the park, his gaze still on me. He started whistling and grinning happily. We continued the ride in blissful silence, each one of us, happy to have found the other again. He stopped in front of a jeweler’ s shop and he drew me closer into his arms.
” Baby i know i should ask first. And i never thought i would ask this way but will you marry me?”
I remained silent. The stealthy beat of my heart matching his. He drew back, looking at me, his eyes searching my face.
” What took you so long?” I asked in mock anger.
He let out a pearl of laughter and pulled me into his arms once again. I felt at home, there in his arms, his arms tightened around my shoulders protectively. This was where i belonged, this was my home.
” What do you say we look at the rings? I want you to have the most expensive stone they have. If you don’t like the types they have i can order it from Italy”.
I drew him closer, our breathe became one, our heartbeat was a perfect rythmn.
” I don’t care if you place a rubber ring on my finger kelvin. As long as i can be in your arms forever then i am content. ” I kissed him softly on his lips.
” There will be a wedding ” he said.
I whirled around. ” Whose?”
” Ours” he replied.
” Oh Tosin! I can’t let you make such a huge sacrifice!”
” It will be a marriage in name only and it will only last for the duration of six months or thereabout which i think is enough time to sort out the mess your father created. ‘
I blinked back tears. How could these people who i have caused one grief or the other in the past put aside their own happiness to ensure mine? I have been so rude to him in the past and i have never regarded him as anything other than a fly on the wall and Kelvin ‘ s shadow. How many times have i turned my nose down at him? how many times have i said one derogatory word or the other to him? Many times than i could count on my fingers. I wouldn’t let him go through with it , i couldn’t do that to Victoria, i would be blind not to know that she was sweet on him.
” No. Tosin, i appreciate you doing this for me but…..”
” I am not doing it for you!” He snapped. ” I owe it to Kelvin for having my back on countless occasions! that is what friends do! i doubt if you would even understand it.”
I nodded my head. ” I will pay you” i heard the old Linda said, the part of me that liked to always be in control of things ” Name your price ”
He shook his head. ” You will never understand. It is not everyone that can easily be bought and i won’t have you lump me in with your class of people, who have no conscience ” he said, walking towards the door. ” I will go see the pastor and i will send your father to bring you out. ”
” I am sorry. How about Vicky? Isn’t she your girlfriend?”
” Let that be my headache. You want to wed today or what?” He threw back, walking out of the room slamming the door.
Onyinye came in, her eyes dancing with questions.
” What happened? What were you discussing and where is Kelvin?” She asked. ” He dumped your a$$?”
” Onyinye why do i have this feeling that you are gloating? Find something amusing?”
She burst into laughter. ” Isn’t it funny the way you have quickly changed your skin like a chameleon? I have been observing you ever since that Tomi girl died. What’s the plan and why wasn’t i let in on it? “.
I blew out air exasperatedly. ” So you didn’t feel any remorse at the news of her death? and you thought that i was acting? seriously where is your conscience? “I asked, i decided not to let her know that Tomi was alive.
” You can’t blame me for thinking so. I have always known you to be a cold biitch and all of a sudden you turned as sweet and easy as a candy.”
” That is not the real me, Onyinye. That was a facade to hide my true feelings. ”
” So this all rosy sweet and buttered person is the real you? how many people have you cheated? how many times have you shagged a guy you just met? How many relationships have you wrecked? how many…. ”
” Its enough! enough! Where are you going with all these? Yes i am not a saint but i feel touched by the kind gestures of those i have hurt in the past! if they can try to help without nailing me first for my past sins then the least i can do is to be just a little bit nicer! Unlike you Onyinye i don’t enjoy tormenting others! and whatever i did in the past i did it because i had to! You think that you know me but you don’t! ”
We both turned around as the door creaked open. My father entered the room, he looked so handsome in his white flowing Agbada attire but he had a sad expression on his face. Onyinye sighed rudely and went out of the room.
” Baby girl” Dad said quietly.
He hadn’t called me that since i was a little girl running after grass hoppers and rolling in the grass with my dolls.
” Dad” I choked out.
He pulled me into his arms and i stood like a wooden statue, stunned. I pulled back, bracing my hands on my hips, staring at him like he had suddenly grown three heads.
” You don’t have to go through with this. You don’t have to” He said.
” Are you saying all these because of the company?” I asked, in anger. Why would he care now if not for his greed. He didn’t want to let go of that company.
” No. This isn’t about the company, you can have it all if you want. I get it now, for a long time i tried to find out why my sweet little girl who wouldn’t go to bed if her daddy hadn’t kissed her good night suddenly loathed the sight of him. At first i thought it was a phase young children go through, i thought you were missing your mother so much and you wanted to mourn her in private. For a long time i tried to reach you, for years i tried to reconnected with my child but it seemed like her hatred for me intensified with each day. So i stayed away Linda, i distanced myself from you even though it was killing me inside. I felt that it was what was best for you.” He removed his fila and held it in his hand. ” I sent you to the Adediwuras because i thought that you would be more comfortable there in the presence of Kelvin and his siblings. But when you came back home you only withdrew further into yourself and your hatred for your aunt and i grew worse and i watched helplessly while my little angel became a stranger to me.”
” You pushed me away. You never tried to find out how i was coping after mom died. Victoria became all you cared about. I never got anything i wanted anymore. It was like i was replaced just like an old raggedy doll. For many nights, i woke up frightened and drenched in sweat with no one to take me into their arms and comfort me. There was no more gifts and kisses for me, it was Vicky, Vicky, Vicky. On my birthday i sat in bed all day, nobody remembered my 9th birthday! You never tried! If you think that you tried then you didn’t try enough!”.
” I am sorry my angel. I left you your bicycle which you had always wanted for your 9th birthday. I thought that you didn’t want to see anyone of us and that was why you locked yourself in your room all day. I couldn’t find the bicycle few days later when i checked the garage so i thought that you hadn’t wanted it and you had your aunt give it out. I’ m so sorry, i never knew that all these years you held me responsible for mummy’ s death.”
I felt the tears i was keeping at bay slip out of my eyes, it streamed down my face and landed on my chest.
” You killed her……why?”
” I tried to explain it all to you, the day we had the confrontation in my study but by the time i had recollected myself i was told that you and Vicky had hastily left the house. Since that day, i have been trying to reach you both to no avail. Why would you think that i killed your mother? I loved her…..I loved her more than life itself and it is killing me that you think i could have laid a finger on her, to harm her.”
” I heard you both arguing! She was threatening to cut you out! She said that you betrayed her! Let me see how you can lie your way out of this! You were probably cheating on her!”
” Aww Linda. You are wrong. I never cheated on your mother while she was alive. This was what happened. Maggie told me that your mother seized some money belonging to her. I asked Jennifer and she confirmed it but she wouldn’t tell me how she came to owe Maggie 5 million naira. Your aunt was such a young and hard working girl and i felt that your mother was treating her unjustly. There’s a lot you don’t know about mummy, baby girl.” He said. ” You were too young to understand”.
” I don’t believe you!”
” Your mother was obsessed with self pity and she felt the whole world owe her for being born with a hole in her heart. She always wanted everything to go her own way because according to her she wasn’t going to live long. She always flaunted her ‘passing away’ and she thinks everything should go her own way. Before Maggie came to us, she was pregnant but she was knocked down by your mother and she lost that pregnancy. Mummy was a good woman who loved being kind to others but she easily lose that love and affection for them and she would start looking for ways to send them out of her life. I begged her to return Maggie’ s money to her but she refused. I took out the money from the company account and i gave it to Maggie, believe me, that was the betrayal your mother was speaking of. She said i betrayed her trust for giving Maggie the money behind her back and for that reason she wanted to cut me off.”
” Oh daddy! I ………I thought that….”
” I know. The next day she was found dead in bed, i understand why you would think so.” He finished.
” How……how about Vicky? why did you try to poison her?”.
” Poison?” He shouted worriedly. ” Did someone try to poison your sister? when? Why wasn’t i informed? When did this happen?”
I flung myself into his arms. ” Oh daddy! What is going on?”
A knock sounded on the door, Onyinye peered into the room.
” The groom is waiting! so the pastor said!. Wait a minute, why did the pastor ask me to fetch you when Kelvin is not here?” She slammed the door once again.
” You don’t have to go through with this wedding. I only agreed to the union because your mother would have wanted it too and i thought it would make her happy. I never thought of what you wanted or how you felt about it. Another shortcoming on my part.” He sighed heavily. ” Tosin told me Kelvin couldn’t make it and he would take his place to save us the shame. I can’t imagine that my baby girl would be left stranded at the altar one day. If i could take this shame on myself to spare you the grief i will. Marriage shouldn’t be made mockery of and it isn’t something one you be made to endure. No. I will go apologize to everyone and tell them that it is off.”
” Thank you dad. I will come with you ” I agreed, now that i had found out that my father was innocent the prospect of getting married just to secure properties didn’t seem appealing to me anymore.
” No. You stay here, there will be so much glares and …….”
” I will go with you dad.”
I placed my hand in his and we went out of the room. Onyinye was all the while eavesdropping on our conversation, she looked up guiltily as we opened the door and she trailed behind us. Tosin was standing impatiently on the threshold of the church, looking out for us. He made to go back inside on sporting us but i waved my hand, indicating for him to stop. We walked to him, the people seated in the church were all hushed now, wondering what was going on.
” Thank you son but you but you don’t have to. I will go speak to everyone” dad was saying.
I caught a movement out of the corner of my eyes, i don’t know what made me notice him in the first place. Maybe it was because i had seen him trying to fade in to the background since i got to the church. He had on a face cap and he was visibly fidgeting, maybe he was also wondering what was going on i thought. I turned to my dad and Tosin but my eyes caught the man edging closer to us and it all happened so fast. He pulled out the gun hidden under his shirt, aimed it at Tosin. Before i could yell, before i could even open my mouth to call out a warning. A aingle shot had rang out. I found myself on the ground, Onyinye was screaming, the whole church was thrown into chaos. I felt a hand round my shoulders. I blinked my eyes in confusion. I looked up and my eyes met that of Tosin, who had covered my body with his.
” Tosin” I said in surprise, I looked down at my feet, the blood was flowing Like a wine jar had been broken.
My father was on the ground, his white agbada was soaked in his blood. There was a crimson patch in front of his chest where the bullet had penetrated. I heard someone shouting for the securities at the main gate, someone else was shouting for an ambulance. Victoria and Auntie Maggie were beside him now. I felt his pulse, it was weak. I felt someone pull me up, away from the flood of blood. It was Tosin, the ambulance was already there at the speed of light. Two security men carried him into the van. I wondered where they were before the mad man gained access into the premises.
” Please be quick! He’s losing too much blood!” I heard Auntie Maggie cry out.
I looked at my hands, it was covered in blood. My father’ s blood. I got into the van dripping blood from the edge of my gown. Tosin got into the van beside me, Auntie Maggie and Vicky wanted to jump in too but Tosin asked them to stay back. I held up my father’ s almost lifeless hand against my cheek. Please give me another chance with him lord, i prayed. For the first time in my life.
To be continued..