Two minutes later, his head came up. “That’s such a joke.”
He stared at her for a few seconds, then went back to the will. The room was so quiet, that the sound made by the second hand of the clock, as it moved, suddenly seemed noisy.
Kunle’s eyes were angry when he looked up finally. “No way am I doing this.”
Bunmi started to speak, but he raised a hand and she fell silent. “It’s one thing to step into the role of a father, to children whose existence was hidden from you, and another to marry a woman, just because her dead grandma said so.”
He shook his head. “I understand the bind this puts your family in, but I can’t…” His head moved again. “I can’t do this, Bunmi.”
She bit her upper lip before speaking, “Grandma left me some cash too, as well as other stuff. Erm…”
He raised his eyebrows. “Ehen?”
She spoke hurriedly, “It’s only for a year. I intend to pay you.”
He started laughing. “Only for a year, you say? You’re offering to pay me to become a divorcee in a year, do you know that?” He shook his head. “That’s not part of my plan for me, so I’ll pass.”
He raised an eyebrow again. “I’m curious, though. Exactly how much am I worth?”
Without breaking eye contact, she said slowly, “I’ll pay you ten million naira, Kunle. I’ll give you half of that now and the other half at the end of the year.”
He smiled. “I have a great job, thanks to your father. I’ll pass.”
He stopped smiling. “Speaking about your father, I assume he doesn’t know his grandchildren are mine or he would have …” He stopped and shook his head. “What a mess.”
“He doesn’t know. I refused to say who the father was.”
“And he has to find out now, right?”
She shrugged. “It’s up to you, really.”
He shifted from the edge of the chair, leaned back and put his right hand over his eyes. “Bunmi, this is a lot to take. You’ve had five years to get used to the idea of being a parent. I don’t even know your… my… our children!”
He removed his hand and looked at her again. “I need some time to process all this. Right now, I have a major headache.”
She stood. “That’s alright. Can you call me, when you decide on what to do?”
He blew out air from his mouth and walked over to the wall, where a fifty-inch LED display television was mounted. When he bent at the waist, the fabric on the seat of his shorts stretched and she found herself staring.
That’s what got you into trouble the first time.
He picked up a phone from a short, rectangular display unit under the television and slowly, disconnected it from a charger. When he straightened up and turned to her, he stopped short when he noticed her staring. They stood looking at each other for a few seconds, till the doorbell suddenly rang.
She picked her bag from the stool and walked to the door with him. He opened the door and his guest looked from him to Bunmi and back to him, before walking in.
He turned to her and smiled. “I’m sorry about the other night.” When she nodded, he extended a hand to her. “I’m Tijani, by the way.”
They shook hands and as he went to sit, she turned to leave.
“Your phone number?” Kunle asked, leaning on the open door.
“Oh,” she said and reeled off a series of numbers to him. As he typed them in, she noticed his phone was a Blackberry model. “I can give you my pin too.”
She rummaged in her bag for her phone. “I’m sorry. I don’t know it by heart.”
He smiled. “That’s alright. A lot of people don’t.”
When she left about a minute later, he shut the door and leaned, with his back, on it.
“No history, abi?”
“TJ, wahala dey.”
Lying on his bed three nights later, Kunle found that he couldn’t sleep. He shifted on his bed, trying to get comfortable, as he replayed the conversation he had with Tijani.
“You don’t have to marry her, you know. You can still have a relationship with your kids.”
He crossed his left ankle over his right knee and responded, “The thing is… Otunba is the closest I’ve had to a father figure. I was five when my mother got the job at their house. When we moved there, he paid close attention to me, when he could have easily ignored me. The man try for me, upon say na only housekeeper my mama be to them.”
He raised right hand and brought his index finger up. “He made sure I went to good schools and…” The middle finger joined the other. “…he provided for me, opportunity for travel.” His ring finger joined them. “My job…the kind of life I have now is, to a large extent, because of him.”
He put his hand down and shook his head. “Of course, I don’t want to get married to Bunmi, with the knowledge that we would be getting divorced in a year, but I just can’t sit back and watch her family lose their business.”
“How does your decision affect the business?
“E dey too complicated, jare.”
He picked up his phone now. He hadn’t spoken to Bunmi since he took her number, but he enjoyed looking at the pictures she put up on her blackberry messenger profile. So far, she had put up only pictures of the kids and he saved all of them on his photo gallery.
He looked at her profile now. A grinning Joanna was there this time, in a pink long-sleeved tunic that had a white, ribbon-wearing, kitten on the front.
She looks so much like Bunmi.
The layers at the bottom of the tunic fell over the top of a dark blue pair of leggings, with pink threads at the seam. Her feet were encased in a pair of pink and white sneakers and the tips were almost touching. He found the knee that was jutting out and the hand she placed on her waist amusing.
The girl sabi pose, sha.
Immediately, a picture of Bunmi replaced that. She was reclining on a black chaise longue, in a shiny red strapless dress. He assumed it was a dress, even though the lower part of her body was not visible.
She was smiling, her face turned slightly to the camera. Unlike the hairstyle she wore when she came to his house, the curls on her head were slightly frizzy and stopped on her shoulders. His fingers itched to touch them.
Her arms were folded on her belly and he noticed immediately that, but for the watch with a slim gold strap, on her left wrist, she wore no other accessories.
He closed the picture and typed a message to her, “Still up?”
Seconds after she read the message, her reply came, “I can’t sleep.”
He scratched his head then typed, “Can you come over tomorrow morning?”
“Is nine too early?”
“Is ten too late?”
“Ten is fine.”
She sent a happy smiley.
He smiled and typed, “Goodnight.”
They sat in the same chairs as they had, the last time. She accepted his offer of a drink of apple juice and as soon as he brought it, he didn’t waste time on small talk.
“I want to be in my children’s life.”
She set down the carton of juice she had been trying to open. When he noticed that, he said, “Go ahead.”
“No, you go ahead.”
He shrugged. “Besides wanting to be a part of my children’s lives, your parents have treated me like a son too. So, I have to do right by your family.”
“In plain terms, please.”
He smiled. “I’ll marry you.”
She rolled her eyes and muttered, “How romantic.”
He laughed for a while, before sobering up. “Your grandma is not the only one who can come up with clauses, though.” She looked at him, puzzled.
“I’ll marry you, only on one condition.”
“That I pay all the money in advance? Deal.”
He frowned. “I’m not for sale, Bunmi and neither is my honour. Ten million naira is not money to sneeze at, really. I might even need it, since your father would, most likely, sack me, after we tell him our plans.”
He shrugged. “However, I can easily get another great job; because, thanks to him, I have the right qualifications. So, I won’t collect a kobo from you.”
Frowning, she asked, “What’s in it for you, then?”
He smiled. “It’s right there in the will. I want a proper marriage.”
“Yes, Bunmi. We are required to share a house, right?” She nodded and he continued, “I don’t want separate bedrooms or beds, for that matter.”
She frowned some more and slowly shook her head. “That’s totally out of the question, Kunle. It’s a marriage of convenience, really. No strings attached.”
He shook his head and stared intently at her. “I want all strings attached for the entire year. That is my condition. You can take it or leave it.”
Feeling cornered, she looked away from him. After a while, she sighed and looked at him. “Don’t you have a girl friend or something?”
He raised both eyebrows, amused. “No, There’s no girlfriend… or something. If we get married, it will be an exclusive relationship. Those are my terms.”
He can’t be serious. We can’t be having a discussion about that sort of relationship, with so much unresolved issues between us.
“What if I get pregnant?”
He raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. “It won’t be the first time, would it? Moreover, that’s part of a proper marriage, right?”
He’s crazy, alright.
She sighed deeply and asked, “When do we tell everyone?”
He stood and picked up his car key from the top of the center table. “How about now?”
She let out a breath and stood as well. “I think you should tell your mum first.”
He shook his head. “No, I want her out of it, till I talk to your parents. I owe them that much.”
Sade’s heart jumped in her throat when Bunmi walked into the living room with Kunle. The chickens have come home to roost.
She forced a smile on her face, as she stood to hug Bunmi. Niyi, on a chair beside her, put down the newspaper he had been reading and smiled at them.
Bunmi and the kids had been staying in her parent’s house since the day before the burial and a truce of sorts had been established between them.
Kunle prostrated, his knees slightly bent and the fingertips, of his right hand, touching the floor. “Good morning, sir.”
“Good morning, Kunle. You may have a seat.”
Coming to an upright position, he slowly walked across the large room, to a chair opposite Niyi, who had turned his attention on Bunmi.
She smiled cautiously from the seat beside her mother. “Good morning.”
“Good morning, Bunmi. You left quite early. Your mum said you told her you had an errand to run,” he said cheerfully.
She glanced at Kunle. “Yes, I had something to take care of.”
He followed her eyes. “I haven’t seen you since the thanksgiving reception, Kunle.”
“I’m sorry about that sir. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
I bet you have, Sade thought.
“A lot on your mind? Even with the week-long break from work? I hope everything is fine.”
When Kunle looked at Bunmi, Niyi turned to her, his brow knitted in a small frown. “It’s about grandma’s will.”
Confused, he asked, “What about it?”
She let out a breath and gazing at her father, said, “Kunle is Jake’s and Joanna’s father.”
Sade gasped, while Niyi sprang up from his chair, “You must be kidding!” Taking long strides, he went over to Kunle, who had his right hand over his eyes.
“Is this some prank, young man?”
Kunle removed his hand and shook his head twice. Niyi’s face crumpled, as though he wanted to cry and he turned to his wife. Speaking in a hoarse whisper, he asked, “How could we have missed this?”
Without waiting for an answer, he walked slowly to his chair, rested his head on the back of it and closed his eyes. There was silence in the room for a long time and no one made eye contact with the other.
Suddenly, he raised his head and said out loud, “This is such a mess!” All eyes turned on him. “I’ve made such a mess!”
He ignored his wife and looked at Bunmi, “You cannot marry him.”
He shook his head, continuously. “You cannot marry, Kunle.”
“Why is that, daddy? We’ll lose everything.”
He turned to Kunle and spoke slowly. “He’s your brother.”
“What!” three of them chorused.
He looked at Sade and his eyes turned pleading. “He is my son.”