I dapped at the tears sneaking out of my eyes with an handkerchief while staring into his beautiful eyes, my hands found his and i gave them a gentle squeeze. We were on our first date, at a cosy little inn which served varieties of Continental dishes. We were on our third course, when i begged Dantata to tell me about his childhood. By the time he was done talking, i knew we had more in common. I couldn’t stop my eyes from swelling up with tears when he told me his father’ s death was staged and the part his mother played in it. I couldn’t imagine how heartbroken he was, only a young boy of fifteen then, when he was told his father had died in a plane crash. There was a certain kind of succor in the news of his father being alive but it also shows his life had been a lie.
” Thank you for sharing this with me” i said.
” You are welcome” he replied.” Since we have ruined our dinner with talk of my family, let’s talk about yours. When are you going to see her?”
” I……I don’t think i am ready to see her”
” You know there are three sides to a story. Hers, theirs, and the truth. You deserve to hear hers too.” He said.
” I only want to hear the truth and i don’t know if she is ready to part with it.” I said.
” You may never know until you see her.” He replied.
” I….will you….will you go with me?” i asked.
” No” He stated.” You have to do it on your own”
” For the first time in my life i would be meeting my mother. What do i tell her?” i asked.
” You don’t have to tell her anything. Let her tell you instead” he said, ” You will be fine”.
” You think? ” i asked, sadly.
” Yea, you will” he replied.
I took a deep breath and pushed the door open. The room was semi dark, there was a long table with two chairs one of which was already occupied. She glanced up, her arms folded across her chest defensively. I sat down on the vacant chair, gently. We both sat in silence until i exhaled deeply. What do you ask someone who murdered another human and pretended to be your aunt your whole life? where do i even start from?
” I don’t regret it” She said suddenly.
” What?’ i asked in confusion.
” I don’t regret killing Jenny. She took my baby away from me, i was only defending my own”She stated.
” Why did you keep up the charade of her being…..being my mother even after her death?” i asked, in pain.
She sighed heavily.” What do you want Victoria?”
” The truth. Who are you?, i want the truth.”
” My name is Margaret. I was left on the doorsteps of St. Micheal’ s orphanage as a baby. I grew up in the orphanage, the nuns were my teacher.The mother superior was my mother, the other motherless children were my siblings and Jesus Christ was our father.” She said, ” I saw Onyinye on the doorsteps of the orphanage when i was ten years old. She was wrapped in a pink shawl”. Something flickered on her face briefly.” She became my world,my……own. I left the orphanage when i was fourteen”.
” Why did you leave?”
” I was being abused”
” By Whom?”.
” The Mother Superior”.
” That is terrible. You were so young. How did you survive when you left?”
” I made some friends on the street who later became my family.The head of the family, Garo, asked me to marry him and i agreed just so i could have a roof over my head.” She went on,” Not long after we moved in i became pregnant and Garo died”.
” Garo……is he…..my father? ” i asked.” How? Isn’t …isn’t Chief my father? ”
” No that was before i met him. I lost that pregnancy. I was hit by a car while hawking. Jennifer hit me with her car and i lost my pregnancy. ” She said.
I nodded. No wonder she was so unrepentant.
” How did Garo die?”.
” He threw a party when he found out i was pregnant. They had too much to drink on that day, another friend came by in the evening, with his car and they drove off to celebrate but none of them returned. They drove into a trailer on their way”
” You loved him?”
” No. But his death hurt me, he was my family” She replied.
” I am sorry ”
” Thank you.”
” How…. how did you meet him……Chief? ”
She sighed heavily.” I met him while running an errand for Jennifer. He stopped to give me a lift, unknown to me he knew who i was. He knew i was the homeless girl Jennifer took into her home. He knew he was married with kids, he knew he had no plans for me yet he deceived me. I was so naive and foolish. I told Jennifer i met someone and she wanted to know if he was wealthy. She was older, i thought of her like a big sister. I listened to everything she tells me without thinking of it. She never asked to meet him, she never asked who he was or what he does for a living, she was only concerned about his financial status”.
” You didn’t know he was married” i said.
” I didn’t know he was married and to Jennifer’s best friend. Jennifer advised me to get pregnant for him so that he could marry me”
” Why? what did she stand to gain? ”
” She said she wanted me to be financially secured. But i knew she was already tired of me, Perharps she felt guilty for being responsible for the loss of my pregnancy. She wanted me out of her life and she didn’t want me to be dependent on her hence her desire to see me married to a wealthy man.” She replied.
” What did Chief say when you told him about the pregnancy? ”
” We were no longer together when i found out i was pregnant. I foolishly told Jennifer everything, i thought she would understand and stand by me but she felt insulted that her friend’ s husband found me desirable.She felt i was beneath their status. She no longer wanted anything to do with me, she threatened to expose everything to her friend if Johnson tried to help me. She promised to help me financially if i ……if i give you to her.”
” So you killed her” i said to myself.
” I had no choice. I knew she could kick me out without a penny and she seized my money too. I was desperate. ”
” How did you kill her?” i asked.
” I can’t answer that” she replied.
” Why did you try to poison Linda?” I blurted out.
” She is just like her mother. Selfish and self_centered. I found out Jenny changed her will before her death. She gave everything to Linda “.
” Linda is her daughter, she ought to be the sole heiress but there’s no way she would have turned us out. She was only acting the way she was before, because she was aggrieved. She thought dad killed her mother, she was troubled and it was all your fault. Why are you fighting for something that doesn’t belong to you?” i said.
” She seized my five million naira! She took away what was rightfully mine! Jennifer betrayed me! i trusted her!” She shouted, agitated. ” Please leave”.
” Did you take Onyinye with you when you left the orphanage?” i asked, ignoring her.
” No. I couldn’t take her with me when i was leaving. But because of the financial assistance i was getting from Johnson i decided to go back for her. So i went to see my street family. They helped me to get Onyinye out of the orphanage. ”
” How? ” i asked.
” My family consisted of different kinds of people who do different kinds of things to survive. I gave them her description, one of the women went there in the day time. She pretended like she was interested in adopting a little girl… say seven years or above. She was able to identify her among the girls. She left with the pretense that she didn’t feel connected to any of the girls. Her going there was just a ploy to know if Onyinye was still there. At night, the men went and raided the orphanage.”
” So they brought her out”
” Why did you send her to the same school as Linda?”
” I wanted her to have the best education. ”
” You could have sent her to any other school.”
” I said i wanted her to have the best” She stated.
” I thought you were prepared to tell me the truth.” I said, ” I need to know, i thought i knew you but i don’t…..please…..”
” I wanted to bring her into the family, but i didn’t want the others to know because of my past sins. I wanted her to have someone else to lean on if something ever happens to me. I knew one day i would have to pay for my sins and i didn’t want to drag her down with me. We had no one else…..” She replied.” And i wanted her to know the right people, be refined just like those women i admired and i wanted to know every move Linda made so i asked her to introduce herself to Linda during one of their reunions”.
” I wish you had been honest with us all from the get_go.” i said.
” I wish so too” She replied, surprising me.
I stood up.” Linda got you a lawyer, he will come by tomorrow “.
She bowed her head. I walked out of the room, closing the door behind me, gently.
I walked out of the special kids schools and got into my car. Kelly had been accepted into the school for kids with learning problems. I also signed up for a home tutor who who helped her, her teacher had also reassured me that she would be alright. Before i walked out of the building, i saw a little girl with glasses talking to her, they were both laughing over something. I guess that was a good start. I drove into my compound, parked my car in my garage, my glance shifted to the strange car parked in the compound beside my mother’s.
” Here he comes” Grandma said, as soon as i walked in.
My dad was in the room, he stood up. I ignored him, walking towards the stairs.
” Tosin” My mother said, softly.” Your father is here to see you. ”
I stopped and whirled around.
” What did you say mother?” I asked, ” See, if this is about Kelly, forget it.You are not getting custody of her”. I meant the last part for his ears.
” No Son. I am not here for that.” He said.
” Then why are you here? Want to drag me to court again for buying your house?” I asked.
” Ohhh!!!! Have some respect for your father! ” Grandma shouted.
” Mother please” He shunned her,” I know you are angry and you have the right to be. Your grandma came clean to me about three years ago. She told me she framed up your mother. I was a coward, i was too self_ centered to confess that i was wrong and to seek for forgiveness.”
” What changed your mind?” I asked sarcastically.” Are you dying?”
” I want my family back Tosin. I am sorry for my actions in the past.” He said.
” I don’t know about Mother but as for me it is too late” i said, heading up the stairs
To be continued..