Oh my, what a day, Bola thought as she drove home. I need to see my children before they go to bed. Can you all just move out of my way so that I see my babies before they sleep?
Shoulders slumped, she sighed sadly. Traffic on the bridge was very heavy and she was yet to get to the middle of the bridge. The clock on her dashboard read 8:30. She realized that this night, she was surely not going to be home in time for her children’s bedtime. They had been asleep when she left home this morning too. She truly was fed up neither seeing her children often nor spending quality time with her husband but she didn’t know what she could do about that.
I can’t resign from my job just yet, Bola thought, miserably. I haven’t saved enough money to start a business with and to maintain the lifestyle we’re used to, we do need the income that comes in from my job. I just don’t like knowing that my family suffers as a result.
She thought now of her thirteen-year old daughter, Jumoke. They had always been very close till lately. Jumoke had always talked to her mother about anything but recently, Bola felt that her daughter was no longer open with her. Jumoke never seemed to want to spend time alone with her mother now. It was almost like her daughter was suddenly avoiding her. Weekends were the only times they could spend together as a family but these days, Jumoke always claimed to have a ton of homework to do every weekend. Bola had caught her chatting on the phone a couple of times when she was supposed to be doing her homework.
Bola sighed deeply now. Her husband had bought a mobile phone for their daughter on her thirteenth birthday. “That phone was supposed to be used only for emergencies and for when her father and I want to talk to her during the day,” she spoke out loud. “Now, it’s become a major source of distraction for her. She’s always talking to someone on that phone! I hope there’s no boy in the picture.”
Almost as soon as she said this, she dismissed the idea with a shake of her head. No, there surely cannot be. She’s way too smart for that. She knows she’s too young to even think about boys.
She was grateful for the fact that it was a Friday night. I’ll get her to tell me what this new change in her is all about tomorrow.
When she finally got home almost two hours later, she let herself in. Her children’s nanny heard her come in and came out from her room to say hello. After exchanging pleasantries with her and assuring her that she didn’t need any help from her, Bola went upstairs. She was grateful that she had Mrs. Peters in her employ. The woman was a mother-hen and was really good with the children. She usually kept eight-year old Kolade company when he came back from school till his sister who was in secondary school came back much later. Bola didn’t know how they would have been able to cope without her.
Kolade was obviously asleep when she checked up on him. He was a light sleeper and as she didn’t want to wake him, she quietly closed the door. As she passed Jumoke’s room, she thought she could hear her daughter talking so she opened the door. Sure enough, Jumoke was on the phone again. She looked startled when her mother came in. It was obvious she hadn’t heard her come in.
“I have to go now,” she quickly told whoever she had been chatting with. “My mum’s home.”
“Good evening, mummy,” Jumoke said. She was smiling nervously.
“Good evening, sweetie. Who was that on the phone?”
“On the phone? Oh, that. No one, mummy.”
Alarm bells went off in Bola ‘s head. “No one? Were you talking to yourself, then?” she asked.
With a small laugh, Jumoke said, “Of course not, mummy. I only meant it wasn’t anyone important, that’s all.”
“Jumoke, please hand that phone over to me.”
“Mummy, it was not…”
“Now,” Bola quietly insisted. She suddenly had a headache. All she had planned to do on getting home was to take a quick shower and sleep. She was extremely tired and just needed to rest. Now, it turned out she had to have that talk with her daughter, after all.
Jumoke handed the phone over to her mother. When Bola tried to access the phone’s log, she realized the phone had been locked with a password.
That’s a new one, she thought, her heart sinking into the pits of her stomach.
“I wasn’t aware that you had started locking your phone with a password,” she said to Jumoke, looking very intently at her.
Her daughter squirmed under Bola’s unwavering gaze and said, “I just found out that my phone had that option today and decided to try it out.”
Bola could always tell when her daughter was lying and she realized now that she was.
“What’s the password?”
“Mummy, I just locked it today,” Jumoke stalled.
“That’s not what I asked you, Jumoke. Give me the password immediately. I don’t want to repeat myself.”
When her mother used the kind of tone she just did, Jumoke knew better than to cross her so she told Bola the password she had used for the phone.
Bola unlocked the phone and went straight to the phone’s log. The last call had been from her daughter to a person named Jay and had lasted over eight minutes. Heart beating frantically, she looked up from the phone to her daughter. Jumoke was chewing her lower lip. She only did that when she was extremely worried about something.
“Who is Jay?” Bola asked, quietly.
“Mummy, Jay is just a friend of mine from school,” Jumoke replied, looking everywhere but at her mother.
Bola noticed that Jumoke was careful not to reveal Jay’s gender. “Is Jay a boy or a girl?”
Jumoke was quiet for a while before answering, “Jay’s a girl, mum. Her name’s Janet.”
That was another lie, Bola thought.
“You’ve never spoken about any Janet before,” she told her daughter.
“Mummy, she’s a new girl. We only became friends recently,” Jumoke responded, trying to pull off a look of exasperation. But, Bola saw through that facade. She saw clearly, that her daughter was scared and didn’t want to be questioned any further, for some reason. Bola was afraid of finding out what that reason was but she knew, immediately, what she had to do.
She removed her shoes and her jacket and sat on her daughter’s bed. She patted on a space beside her and asked Jumoke to sit. After a brief hesitation, Jumoke sat beside her mother and immediately cast her eyes downwards to her feet.
Gently Bola asked, “Is there anything you need to tell me, darling?”
“No, mummy. Everything’s okay,” Jumoke responded, too quickly.
Bola looked at her daughter for a few seconds and determinedly picked up the phone which she had dropped on the bed. She discovered that it had locked automatically and realized it had most likely been set to lock after some time had elapsed. She unlocked the phone and as she was about looking through it, Jumoke snapped her head up and said almost desperately, “Mummy, that’s my phone. You’ve always said we should respect each other’s privacy.”
“Yes, it is your phone, darling. About your privacy, that exists only if I trust you completely. Unfortunately, I have a strong feeling that something has gone horribly wrong, somewhere and I just have to find out what that is.”
Dreading what she somehow knew she’d find, Jumoke went to her daughter’s text messages. Scrolling down, she discovered that there were lots of messages from Jay.
The most recent read, I love you, sweetheart. You bring me so much joy.
Hands shaking, Bola went to the next message. I’m sorry I caused you pain, sweetheart. It broke my heart to see you cry. I promise that next time, there would be no pain. I love you very much.
A cry left her lips. She looked at her daughter who was staring back at her, terrified.
“Jumoke, is this what I think it is?”
Jumoke covered her face with her hands and started crying softly.
Bola didn’t want to read any more messages from Jay. She felt she had seen enough. Her heart was pounding as she went to the folder containing the text messages her daughter had sent. Jay seemed to be the only recipient of all her messages.
The last message she sent him read, You were right. There was no pain. Thank you for showing me the beauty of love. I can’t wait for next Wednesday to be in your arms again.
The previous read, I know you’re with her and I don’t like that. Call me. Bola looked at the bottom of the message and realized that it had been sent about 10pm on Monday night.
Bola started crying now. She couldn’t believe what she had just seen. Her thirteen-year old was sexually active. She had talked with her daughter about the birds and the bees shortly after Jumoke turned eight. She had always encouraged Jumoke to be free with her. They had always been able to talk to her about anything, or so Bola had thought.
“Who is this Jay? This is a boy, right?”
Jumoke couldn’t seem to stop crying. Bola thought very quickly about how to discover the boy’s identity. She didn’t know what she’d tell him when he picked but she knew that she just had to talk to him. If she called Jay on Jumoke’s phone, she suspected that he wouldn’t take the call, considering that Jumoke had told him that her mother had come home. Bola brought out her own phone from her hand bag, took his number from Jumoke’s phone and dialed it on hers.
“No, it can’t be,” she muttered, cutting off the call before it went through. “There must be some mistake.”
She looked at Jumoke’s phone again to be sure that she had the right number. The digits staring back at her were the same as the ones she had dialed on her phone. She forced herself to be calm as she called her husband, James on the phone.
“Sweetie, you need to come home, right away,” she said.
“Bola, I don’t need you nagging me about staying out late, right now,” he grumbled. “I told I was going to hang out with the boys tonight, didn’t I? I had a hellish week and I need to ease off a little bit of that stress. I have no plans of getting home just yet.”
She started crying now.
“What is it, sweetie? Is anything the matter?” he asked now, concerned.
“Just get back home, immediately, James. Something has gone horribly wrong,” she said and hung up the phone.
When James let himself in thirty minutes later, the house was very quiet so he heaved a sigh of relief. For some reason, he had been expecting an uproar. Immediately his wife had hung up, he had told his friends that he needed to do something for her and had left them. By that time of the night, there had been no traffic at all on the bridge so he had driven home as fast as he could.
He went upstairs immediately to see his wife. The door to his daughter’s room was open and the light was on. He looked at his watch and wondered why Jumoke was still awake by past 11pm. He walked into her room to check up on her. Jumoke and Bola were sitting quietly on the bed, each lost in her own thoughts. They looked up when he walked in and he was alarmed to discover that both of them had red-rimmed eyes. They had obviously been crying a lot.
“What is the matter, sweetie,” he asked Bola, rushing to her side.
Wordlessly, his wife pressed some buttons on a phone in her hand and handed it over to him while Jumoke started crying again. Puzzled, James looked at the phone and discovered that it was Jumoke’s. He looked up to his wife and then, turned his eyes to his daughter who cried harder. With a heavy feeling of dread, he looked at the phone and discovered that his wife had left a text message open for him to read. By the time he was done reading it, his heart was pounding. He quickly scrolled through the messages and found more like that. Shocked, he stared at Jumoke without a word.
“Sweetie, please take a look at the number that sent those messages to our daughter,” Bola, quietly, said to him.
James opened another message from Jay and scrolled down to see a number as familiar to him as the owner was. He was Jay? He burst into tears.