“Daddy, I’m so sorry,” Jumoke said, crying really hard. “Please, don’t cry, daddy. I’m very sorry.”
“Shut up!” James barked. “How could you, Jumoke? What were you thinking? Have we not been good parents to you? Have we not loved you? Have we not provided all you’ve ever needed? How could you do such a despicable thing?”
“Sweetie, you’re missing the point here. She is a child. She’s the victim here.”
“Victim? Did I hear you say victim, Bola? You read those vile messages. Did any sound like she had been coerced? She was making plans with him, Bola!”
“James, she’s only thirteen years. He is the monster, here. He took advantage of our little girl. That man came into our home in the guise of an angel and stole our daughter’s innocence.”
James cried harder at that. They all did. His sobs stopped suddenly and he said, “I brought him into our lives. I caused this.”
Bola put her arms around him and said, “No, sweetie, don’t ever blame yourself for a second. We were all deceived by…”
He cut her off, “I am to be blamed. I put my little girl in Jonathan’s arms the day I chose him to be her godfather.”
“James, who else could you have chosen? He was your best friend! He was the only person you had been friends with the longest. He was the only logical choice you could have made. He betrayed our trust in him. It has nothing to do with you.”
James thought about Jonathan now. They had been friends since they were boys and had always protected each other. He had loved Jonathan like a brother so this betrayal was like an arrow to his heart. A lot seemed clearer to him now.
Jonathan was one of those he had been hanging out with this night. At a point, his best friend had got a call that he had left the table to take. By the time he came back, he had looked discomfited and had been unable to look James in the eye.
“Who was that?” James asked him. Jonathan looked at him blankly so he added, “On the phone, earlier.”
“Oh, that. It was nothing, really.” Jonathan replied, looking more uncomfortable,
“You’re having another affair, right? I thought you learnt your lesson after the last one that almost ended your marriage,” James quietly asked him.
“I’ll sort it out soon, I promise,” Jonathan replied, almost apologetically.
James had thought then what a nice woman Sonya, Jonathan’s wife was. He had thought that Sonya didn’t deserve a husband who, constantly, cheated on her. His friend was a terrible flirt and James had always disliked that about him. What James hadn’t known was that his best friend had turned his wandering eyes on James’s thirteen-year old daughter.
“How did this happen?” he asked Jumoke, as he paced around the room.
Jumoke, through tears, told them her story.
Jonathan had come to the house one Saturday morning, shortly before Jumoke’s thirteenth birthday. He had come to pick James up so they could go play tennis at the recreation club they were both members of. Jumoke had been in the living room when he came and had excitedly hugged him. Jonathan had always been a wonderful godfather and had always bought her presents.
He had wrapped his arms around her and had given her a bear hug. It always made her laugh, anytime he did that. When he was removing his arms, she had felt his fingers, very lightly, brush against her chest and she had sprung away.
Turning imploring eyes to her mother, Jumoke said, “Mummy, I had been uncomfortable about that. Truly, I had been. I remembered that you had warned me about men doing that. Then, I thought that it was an accident. I excused myself and went to tell daddy that Jay… Uncle Jonathan was around.”
Crying, Bola said, “Why did you not tell me, Jumoke? Why?”
“Mummy, I didn’t want to because when I thought about it later, I thought I must have imagined all that. Uncle Jonathan was nothing like those men you had warned me about, after all.”
She had also told no one how uncomfortable she became when he suddenly wanted her to sit on his laps a lot of times. It didn’t matter that he always did so in front of her parents. Neither did it matter that he had known her since she was born. She felt that, this time, something was different but she didn’t want to say so to anybody.
“How could we have missed all these? And why didn’t you tell anyone? Didn’t you know that we would have been able to prevent him from taking advantage of you?” James asked, going tiredly to sit on his daughter’s bed to sit.
“Daddy, I didn’t want anyone to say that I was a bad girl, for thinking that Uncle Jonathan had ulterior motives,” Jumoke responded.
“How could you think for one second that we would have blamed you for any of this?” Bola asked, coming, from the door she had been leaning on, to hold her daughter.
Jumoke leaned into her mother and turned to look at her father before responding, “My friend, Tayo, came to school one day with cane marks on her upper arms. I asked her how she got them and she said that her mother had beaten her for asking her how women got pregnant. She had called Tayo a bad girl who was getting interested in men. I hadn’t wanted that happening to me. That was why I kept quiet about my misgivings.”
This is Uncle Jonathan, after all, she had also thought.
She had started avoiding Jonathan and had started making excuses each time the entire family had to visit his family. But, her parents had frowned at what they had termed her ‘sudden rebellion’ and had made her go with them each time.
Each time she had seen Jonathan, his smile had grown warmer and the looks he gave her had seemed fonder.
I must be imagining things, she had thought. This is Uncle Jonathan, after all.
Then, the gifts had started coming more often. Through her father, he started sending her gifts.
“Daddy, do you remember the wrist watch he gave you for me?”
James was ashamed of that reminder. It was a beautiful watch and looked every inch expensive and he had accepted it, from his best friend, without any reservations. Jonathan had said that Jumoke was a big girl now and needed to have grown-up stuff.
Bola remembered protesting when Jonathan had bought Jumoke a pair of expensive gold earrings two weeks later. “Ah, Jonathan, this is too much! You don’t have to keep buying Jumoke presents or she would start expecting them,” she had told him.
In her head, she could hear his reply now, “Don’t be such a fusspot, dear. She is my favourite goddaughter and it’s my duty to spoil her.”
Oh, he spoilt her, alright, Bola thought, starting to cry again.
When Jumoke’s results had been the best in her class, last term, Jonathan had given her a beautifully wrapped box. With her parents looking on, Jumoke had opened the box and in it was a lovely red dress. “I’m so proud of you, sweetheart,” Jonathan said.
That night, he had asked for her phone number during dinner at their house. Her parents and his wife had been there so she had given it to him immediately. That was when the calls began. He had told her that he loved her. He had courted her with a desperation that had worn her down.
Jonathan’s wife was truly beautiful so it felt like a huge compliment to Jumoke when she finally accepted the fact that she was an object of his affection. She had become excited.
Extricating herself from her mother’s arms, she went over to her chest of drawers and leaned on it. In a small voice, she said, “I finally agreed to meet him.”
After school, every Wednesdays, Jumoke usually had an hour of swimming lessons in school but for the past five weeks, she had missed them. Those weeks, Jonathan had been waiting in his car, a short distance from her school.
“What!” James thundered, rushing to his feet. “I’ll surely kill him.”
Bola quickly went to her husband and tugged at his hand till he sat on the bed again, his head in his hands. Looking as Jumoke with a lot of sadness, Bola asked, “How did you get home after such meetings?”
“He always dropped me off near the school, after our dates. He said that it was better that way so that I neither missed the school bus nor raised anyone’s suspicions, at home, that I had missed swimming lessons.”
“Dates?” James asked, incredulously, looking at his wife. “She calls time spent with that monster ‘dates’!”
“I’m sorry, daddy,” Jumoke said, starting to cry again.
“What did you do on these dates?” Bola asked calmly, rubbing her right arm across her face.
On their first two dates, they just talked and ate ice cream in a hotel room. He told her how much he loved her and how he had dreamt about being with her for a long time. He had done most of the talking because Jumoke still wasn’t used to Uncle Jonathan telling her those kinds of things.
She had been shy the first time he removed her school shirt. He touched her intimately and told her that she was extremely beautiful. He also told her over and over again that he loved her. She was finally convinced that she loved him too so she told him that. That was on their third date in the same hotel room.
The fourth time they met, he pleaded with her to allow him show her how much he loved her. Cupping her face in his hands, Jonathan said, “There’s only one perfect way for us to prove to each other how deep our love is.”
When he opened the hook on the band of her pleated skirt, Jumoke had tried to stop him, scared that she would get pregnant but he told her not to worry about that. “You won’t get pregnant, darling,” he swore.
He used protection and she cried for a long time after that.
Looking at Bola, Jumoke cried, “It hurt so much, mummy. It hurt so much and I begged him to stop but he wouldn’t!”
She had almost missed the school bus that day.
They met again, just two days ago. The memory of their last meeting had been fresh on her mind. She had been scared to go to him. But, Jonathan reassured her repeatedly that it would be different. “I promise that I will teach you the beauty of love,” he told her that morning when his call woke her from sleep. He had been whispering and she knew that he didn’t want Aunty Sonya to hear him.
That day, there had been no tears and she had hated the fact that he had to go home to his wife. However, thinking about Aunty Sonya also made her feel very guilty and she told him so.
Jay told her not to worry about his wife and reminded her that they were already taking precautions not to cause Sonya any pain.
“I missed Jay and needed to hear his voice tonight, mummy. That was why I called him,” Jumoke finished, tears streaming down her face
By the time Jumoke finished her story, tears were streaming down her father’s face. With arms wrapped around her body, Bola started weeping again. James suddenly jumped up from the bed and screamed like an enraged bull. That had Jumoke cowering in fear. As he made to dash out of his daughter’s room, Bola ran and held his waist, begging him to listen to her.
“Sweetie, if you drive out in this condition, you would not drive safely. In anger, you just might do something that would make it impossible for us to prosecute that evil man. We need clear heads in order to deal with him appropriately. He defiled our baby and he must pay for that.”
While trying to extricate himself from his wife’s hold, James finally broke down and sobbed brokenly, clinging to Bola. “I trusted him so much, Bola. I loved him like a brother. He was right outside the labour room when I was in there with you, having her. That man was one of the first people that ever held our little girl. Yet, he was the one to violate her. I could just kill him, Bola. I could just kill him.”
After sobbing for a while, James stepped out of his wife’s embrace and dried his tears. He went to a crying Jumoke, pulled her into his arms and hugged her tight.
“You’ll be fine, sweetie. I’ll make sure of that.”
It was a very beautiful day. The sky was very blue and the sun’s rays were mild on the day Jonathan was convicted of child molestation four months later. For James, it was a bitter sweet victory. He had lost his brother and best friend but he was glad that the monster, as he now referred to Jonathan was going to be behind bars for a long time.
He had been unable to stop himself from lunging at his friend when he had come to the door the day after they had made the discovery. It had taken the three policemen, who had been with him, to pull him off Jonathan. He was very glad when he found out that he had given his former friend a broken nose. Jonathan had pressed no charges against him for that.
Bola resigned from her job immediately after the incident. Fortunately, last month, she had got another that gave her flexible hours. I might not earn as much as I did previously but I really appreciate the fact that I can spend more time with my family, she thought to herself as she drove home. The clock on her dashboard read 4:30. I’ll be home in twenty minutes, she thought with a smile.
Jumoke had been seeing a counsellor twice weekly since the incident. Bola thought now, I’m thrilled that Jumoke’s starting to come out of her shell. I was so worried about her.
Jumoke’s teary refrain for days after Jonathan’s arrest had been “Mummy, I’m sorry but I really love him.” Remembering that, still made Bola cringe.
I thank God that she finally understands that Jonathan was wrong in ‘loving’ her the way he did. He was a trusted predator who had taken advantage of her in a horrible manner.
Jumoke had changed schools because her parents had been appalled at how easy it had been for her to leave the school premises in order to meet with Jonathan when she still had obligations there.
Out of that mess, something good came, though. We’re closer as a family, Bola thought. She smiled as she remembered a conversation she had with James last week.
“He may only be eight but you have to speak with him,” she had insisted.
Shaking his head vehemently, James had replied, “No, way, sweetie. What exactly do you want me to tell him? No one had any such talk with me. It would be uncomfortable for both of us. Na wa for you sef. How do you expect me to tell my son about girls?
“Would you prefer he gets the wrong information about all that from somewhere else?” Bola quietly asked.
That had nudged her husband in the direction of Kolade’s room. He told his uncomfortable son how women got pregnant and explained to him the importance of never starting a relationship with any girl till he was able to take care of a baby. He ended by telling his son, “Most importantly, you should understand that when a girl says “No”, she means just that. There are no grey areas with this one, son. No means no. You have to say that too if anyone ever touches you in the ways I told you about earlier.”
Bola smiled now as she remembered James telling her afterwards, “My dear, Kolade said that his friend Andrew told him that his mother said that if he ever touched a girl’s hands, she would get pregnant. I don’t blame that woman, jare. Trying to find the words, then, stringing sentences together to explain all that to a little boy was hard!”
Yesterday, when Jumoke showed her a love letter from a fourteen-year old boy in her new school, memories of Jonathan came flooding back and Bola’s heart had beat very fast. But as she doled out motherly advice, she had been glad that her daughter had chosen to confide in her.
They were all trying to re-build their family. They were determined not to let the enemy in again.