A few hours later, in her grandmother’s living room, she wiped the tears that ran down her face, with the back of her left hand. With her right, she picked up the piece of paper on her laps and continued reading.
The way he asked me how you were, anytime I came back home, from a visit to you, told me more than you ever wanted to. You may never have talked about it, but I knew he was the one.
A teardrop fell on the paper.
Trust me, my darling. It will be alright.
She stopped reading, as memories of a night, five years ago, came rushing in.
“How could you have been so stupid, Bunmi?”
“Daddy, I…” She put her face in her hands and started crying.
“Niyi, calm down, please.”
“Calm down, Sade?” He spread his arms upwards and shook his head. “Calm down, she says!”
He spun around to face her. “Where were you when your daughter was sleeping around?”
Bunmi raised her head and gasped. Niyi looked at her and nodded continuously. “Yes, you must have been. Why else do you not know the animal that got you pregnant?”
He pointed his right index finger at her. “Do you have any idea who you are? Tell me, do you?”
He brought his hand down and shook his head slowly. “The daughter of Adeniyi Williams-Akanbi will not have a child outside wedlock. That won’t happen!”
Bunmi fell on her knees and stretched out both arms to her father. “Daddy, please. I beg you… Please… Don’t ask me to have an abortion. I can’t do that.”
“You can’t do that?” He drew his brows together and nodded slowly. “I see. You prefer to bring shame to this family, right?”
Still looking at Bunmi, he said, “Sade, stay out of this. Oluwabunmi, I ask you for the last time; who is the man that dared to defile my daughter?”
Still kneeling, she pleaded, “Daddy, I can’t say now, please.”
He turned away from her and went to sit on his chair, behind the table. Supporting both elbows with the table, he put his head in his hands. There was silence in the study, for a while, till he raised his head again. When he wiped away tears from his eyes with both thumbs, Bunmi sprang up. “Daddy!”
His raised hand halted her in her tracks. He shook his head and spoke slowly, “I cannot allow another…” He paused and continued, “… a bastard child into this family and I will not have a daughter with loose morals.”
“Niyi, I beg you.” Sade got up from her chair and fell on her knees. “Please, don’t do this.”
He ignored her, still looking at Bunmi. “You will leave this house immediately. I cannot bear to see the shame that is you.”
Bunmi, crying harder, fell to her knees again and stretched out her arms to him. “Daddy… Please, don’t send me away. I beg you.”
He spoke slowly, pronouncing each word carefully. “You will take your things and you will leave this house now. Till you get rid of that thing in you, I do not know you.”
She turned slowly to look at her mother, who was crying too. “Mummy…”
“Leave my study now.”
With her mother trailing behind her, Bunmi slowly went upstairs to her room. She took only a few valuable possessions, in a handbag, and went downstairs.
“Bunmi, I will talk to him. He’s just very angry now.”
She turned and hugged her mother and they clung to each other, crying. It was a few minutes before nine p.m., so only the three of them were in the main house. She was glad there were no witnesses to her disgrace.
When the door of the study opened, she started and pulled away from her mother. Clutching her handbag, she opened the door to leave, but Sade clung to her hand. “Please don’t go, baby. Let me talk to him.”
Not trusting herself not to break down further, Bunmi didn’t say a word. She gently pulled her hand away from her mother’s and left for her grandmother’s house.
Bunmi wiped her eyes now and continued reading.
Trust me, my darling. It will be alright.
Your father loves you a whole lot. I’m sure you know that, deep within you. You have children now, so you know that the love of a parent doesn’t ever go away, as long as it was there in the first place.
He handled the situation very badly and being the obstinate person that he is, he didn’t try to make things better. Your stubbornness, about not revealing the identity of the man that got you pregnant, didn’t help matters either.
I died unhappy, knowing that both of you were not even on speaking terms. That is one of the reasons I willed my estate the way I did. It is my hope that throwing you together and forcing you to work as a team, will bring about forgiveness.
My darling, you need your father and he needs you. Those beautiful babies of yours need their father too.
I’m sure that if I could still see you all, after I’m gone, I would have a huge smile on my face, when I see that the joy that once was, is back.
Thank goodness, I’m taking all my teeth with me. I don’t want to scare anyone, over there.
Bunmi smiled gently and wiped away the tears that were flowing rapidly now.
She looked gorgeous in a short dress made from sheer light blue lace. It ended in scallops, at the knees, and was lined with a material in a slightly darker shade of blue. It was a simple halter-neck dress with a big bow on one side of her neck, but the way it clung to the soft curves of her body brought back memories he had suppressed all these years. Her belly seemed flat, still, but her waist was a bit thicker than he remembered.
She’s had babies for someone else, remember?
He quickly silenced that taunting voice in his head and smiled, as he remembered teasing her and calling her short.
He could almost hear her retort, Short? Take a look at me now.
The pair of cobalt-coloured shoes she wore had really high heels. On those heels were pointed silver studs that matched the purse she clutched on her left hand.
They make her look really tall, but I wonder how she can walk, wearing those shoes.
Even from here, he could see her toes peeking out. I bet she has red nail polish on.
The legs above them were slim and perfectly toned. He remembered now how they looked in a pair of shorts.
When she turned slightly, he could see her face, framed by the cobalt-coloured gele on her head. The head tie was big and had multiple folds, but the style was perfect for her heart-shaped face. Deep curls of hair cascaded from beneath it, hanging down past her shoulders.
She is stunning!
She was laughing at something the man in front of her was saying. When she extended her right hand, to touch the man lightly on the arm, he felt an emotion he couldn’t recognize course through him.
As he walked away, that voice in his head taunted, Admit it, you wish she’d touch you instead.
Bunmi noticed him walk away and gradually stopped laughing, as warmth spread through her. In a sudden moment of clarity, she knew what she had to do.
“Please excuse me,” she said to her companion and walked away. She called out to the man, whose long strides were taking him rapidly away from her.
He halted immediately, shocked to hear her call him. When he slowly turned around, she had an uncertain smile on her lips, as she came closer.
As they stared at each other, her lips parted slightly, but no sounds came out. Immediately, he felt the urge to kiss her in front of everybody and damn the consequences.
He frowned slightly. Where did that come from?
From a warm and unforgotten place, the voice said.
She noticed the frown on his face and her smile faltered. “Leaving already?”
He smiled and shrugged. “Yeah, I am. The event is pretty much over.”
Bunmi looked around her father’s compound. Large white tents covered almost every available space in front of the house and a large number of people, dressed in colourful attires, still milled around. However, that was nothing, compared to the crowd that had attended the thanksgiving service held in honour of her grandmother.
The reception held here yesterday, after she had been laid to rest at Ikoyi Vaults and Gardens, had pulled twice that crowd.
“You’re right. Most people have already left.”
When she kept silent, he raised an eyebrow and she spoke hurriedly, “There’s something we need to talk about.”
He frowned and she asked, “Do you still live in the same place?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Can I come over tomorrow, please? I can’t leave here now.”
He stared at her for a few seconds and nodded. “The office won’t be open throughout this week.”
“Yeah, I know. Is ten o’clock a good time for you?”
She stared at him for a while. “You look good.” She curled up her toes in embarrassment. Bunmi!
He gave a lopsided smile and turned to leave. “See you tomorrow, then.”
You should have said ‘thank you’, at least.
He countered with, What does she want?
Sade had been watching both of them talk. As she watched him walk away, she pursed her lips. Mama should have let sleeping dogs lie.
When the doorbell rang the next morning, he quickly pulled on a black tee-shirt over a pair of khaki-coloured combat shorts and went to get the door. He felt strangely relieved to see Bunmi at the doorway.
The curls of her hair were deep and fell over her the sides of her face, stopping about four inches below her shoulders. She wore a yellow tee-shirt that had a blue fabric, cut out in the number three, sewn onto the right sleeve. Over the left side of her chest was a blue logo of two polo-players on horseback.
She had teamed the shirt with a pair of dark blue skinny jeans and on her feet were a pair of denim sneakers. She had a tight grip on the strap of the white and yellow satchel bag that hung on her left shoulder, down to her hips.
He remembered how much she loved bright colours. She looks so young and fresh, not like anyone’s mother.
She smiled gently. “Hey.”
He smiled back and moved a bit to allow her in. “Hey, yourself. Come on in.”
When she entered the living room, she linked her hands in front of her and looked around.
He’s done so much with this place.
Why’s there this insane need to hug her?
“Please have a seat.”
She turned to look at him. He had shoved both hands into his pockets and looked a tad uncomfortable. “Thank you.”
She dropped her bag on a small stool and chose the single-seater couch beside it. When she sat, she placed her hands on her laps, angled her touching knees to the right side and crossed her feet at the ankles. Her neck and back were straight and her shoulders were pulled back.
His hands came out from the pockets. We both know you’re not always this prim and proper.
He turned away from her and casually picked up a magazine from one of the side stools. “Can I get you anything?”
“No, I’m fine.”
He looked at her now and noticing her fingers tapping lightly on her knees, he smiled. Good. I’m not the only nervous one.
He dropped the magazine and sat on a three-seater couch that faced the television. He threw his right arm over the back and made a great show of extending his right leg in front of him, before looking at her. Her steady gaze discomfited him, but he held it.
Soon she broke the silence in a voice that was almost a whisper, “How have you been?”
He let out a breath and raised his left hand to rub at his eyes. Dropping his hand, he looked at her again and sighed deeply. “What do you want from me, Bunmi?”
Some of her composure slipped and she leaned back on the couch. “I need to discuss something with you.”
“Yeah, you said so.” When she didn’t say anything, he added, “I’m listening.”
She covered her face with her hands and blew out air from her mouth, behind them. How do I even start?
His heart beat fast. What’s this all about?
She removed her hands and linked her fingers together on her laps. She shook her head once and covered her face again. He couldn’t hear what she was saying behind her hands. “I’m sorry. What was that?”
She removed her hands and blurted out, “Jake and Joanna are yours.”
He sprang up, startling her. “What?”
“They’re your children. I was pregnant five years ago before I went back to New York.”
“What sort of a joke is this?”
He spoke very slowly and she knew he only did that when he was close to erupting in anger.
She shook her head and whispered, “I wish it were a joke. They’re a few months past four years old.” Looking at him start to pace around the room, her voice turned pleading, “They’re yours.”
He looked at her then and something in her eyes convinced him.
He turned away from her. “How dare you keep this away from me, for so long?”
He turned around and looked at her, his brows tightly knitted in a frown. “Didn’t I have a choice in the matter?”
He shook his head twice and spread his arms to the sides. “Didn’t it ever occur to you that as their father, I had rights to them too?”
He believes me. Her shoulders slumped in relief and she started crying.
“You left me, without a word, five years ago…”
Her brows knitted in confusion and she asked in a small voice, “Without a word?”
He ignored her interruption. “Suddenly, you’re back and with two children, whose existence you hid from me. You’re thrusting fatherhood upon me, Bunmi! Did you think of that before coming here?”
He waved his right hand angrily. “Don’t ‘Kunle please’ me! What… exactly… do… you… want?”
She wiped her tears with her palms, reached for her bag and brought out a sheet of paper from it. Eyeing the paper in her outstretched hand, he asked, “What is that?”
“A part of my grandmother’s will.”
He shrugged and shook his head, looking at her face now. “What does it have to do with me?”
She shook the paper and he took it. Immediately, he noticed the parts she had highlighted in red and going back to sit at the edge of his chair, he started reading.