I asked her no questions and she provided no answers; we just sat there in silence. The need to know kept me seated; but my regard for her decision kept me quiet. After an hour, I could not bear the awkwardness of our silence anymore, so I stood up to leave, she also got on her feet and we walked to the door together, then I turned to face her
“Shade……”; I started.
She stopped me short.
“No, Dapo, I’m not married and yes, the children are mine.”
She had answered the questions I wanted to ask. Not fully, but basically. I would not rush her.
I nodded my head, put my hands into my pocket, turned around and walked out the door. Thunder rumbled in the distance and I raised my head in time to catch the lightening flash across the sky, then the heavens began to do what my heart was already doing. I kept walking, letting the rain wash the pain away, letting it wash the tears that had begun to fall. Wet bodies ran past me, some bumped into me, but I kept walking, I walked as though my life depended on it, my home was the prize; the walk, the obstacle.
I finally arrived at my door, feeling a small sense of triumph, I pulled out my keys from my pocket; a small light of hope had begun to illuminate the dark corners of my heart.
“…….No, Dapo, I’m not married”. The words rang in my head over and over again. But she had kids, how? And what did that mean for the both of us.
However, my heart soared on the wind of hope, she wasn’t married. It was then that it struck me that I really liked her, I really did. The fire that consumed my soul, the light fluttering within my heart.
I fell on the couch in my wet clothes and before I blacked out, I whispered to my self ”there is still hope.”
When I opened my eyes it was really dark and my teeth chattered, as though they had a life of their own. I remembered my phone was in my pocket; while I had made my wet promenade under the rain. I reached to bring it out and removed the battery to let it dry. I groped in the darkness as I made my way to the room; where I continued from where I left off.
I visited Shade the next day, after church. When she opened the door, she reached out to hug me, I was pleasantly shocked, positively hopeful and I hugged her back. Then she looked up at me shyly and lowered her gaze.
“How are you?”; I asked with a silly grin plastered on my face.
“I’m good,” she replied, still averting her eyes.
She led me into the house where the little boy was using crayons on a colouring book and her little girl played with a doll. I felt shy in their presence, ridiculously so.
“Hi kids” ; I said waving my hands at them.
The little boy smiled at me and the little girl waved back, shyly.
“What are their names”; I asked, leaning towards Shade.
“That’s Ola”; she said pointing at the little boy. “And that little princess is Feranmi”
“Ola and Feranmi”;I repeated, smiling.
I spent the rest of the day with them, but soon, the creeping darkness firmly compelled me to bid them goodbye. It had been a fun day. I hugged each one of them before leaving. As I walked to my house, there was a warm fuzzy feeling in my chest.
It became a pleasant routine; I called them every night and spent the weekend with them. Each day she revealed a little of herself to me. However, she never spoke about the father of her children, but, I decided to wait.
One Saturday, I hurried down to their apartment, carrying some drinks and snacks I had bought on the way. I took my car that day, whistling along with the radio, with the window down and the wind caressing my face. Life was beautiful, I had thought.
When I arrived, I saw a man with short cropped hair, a fair complexion, blood shot eyes and bulging muscles storming out of their door. He had Feranmi’s eyes and his face was an older version of Olas’. He pulled out a pack of cigarette from his pocket, removed one, lighted it up and began to puff on it. when he finished smoking, he threw the stub on the floor, got into his car and drove off.
I stepped out of my car. He looked pretty familiar, I had seen him somewhere, but for the life of me I could not remember where.
I walked toward the house carrying the snacks and drinks in a plastic bag.
The door was slightly ajar, I knocked on it for the courtesy’s sake and pushed it in.
A gruesome sight met me, shade was sprawled on the door face down, in an unusual angle, Feranmi sat huddled in a corner, crying, while Ola was holding a pack of ice against his mother’s head.
A muscle jerked in my cheek.
“What happened”; I asked hoarsely
They all looked up, including shade who tried to get up but fell back down. I got to her side and carried her up gently. I beckoned Ola and Feranmi to follow me.
“Please get the key of the house, I’m taking your mum to the hospital”; I told Ola.
We locked the door and I laid Shade on the back seat while Ola and Feranmi sat at either side of her.
She was admitted at the hospital, a broken rib and some deep cuts which would have to be stitched.
I was fuming inside, wondering why the jerk had done this to Shade. I now remembered where I had seen him, he lived a few houses away from mine.
She spent three days at the hospital, fortunately they were two weekends and a weekday. I stayed with the kids and took them to visit shade in the evenings.
On the third day, as I drove Shade back home in silence, I could see her battling with emotions within her. I reached out to hold her hand; she squeezed mine and our hands were linked all through the journey.
After putting the children to bed, I sat on the couch nestling a hot cup of tea. Shade sat opposite me wringing her hands
“Shade…..” I started. “You do not have to say anything till you’re well and ready, okay? I would…..”
“I’m ready,” she said, “I just don’t know how to start.”
Her eyes were large and red rimmed, in them I could see, sorrow, regret, anger.
My heart was breaking for her, and it occurred to me that I still did not know so much about the beautiful creature sitting before me, but one thing I knew was that I wanted to spend my life with her, to hold her during the cold harmattan morning, to shield her from the fierce glare of the sun, to keep her from the harsh beating of the rains.
“I was twenty one when I met Segun, Ola and Feranmi’s father,” she started.