As soon as the dark skinned armed man aimed his gun at her, Eniola knew her children were going to loose her. Her father-in-law was lying in a pool of blood a few feet from their car. Pastor John had left her and her brother’s driver to their fate and tried to make a run for it. Why didn’t her brother’s stupid driver hand over the car keys quickly to the armed robbers? Why did she volunteer to go and meet her father–in–law at the airport? Why did the man fly down to Nigeria anyway?
Richard and her had everything in hand. They had already met up with a cowering Gbenga and warned him to stop telling everyone that he fathered their son or risk never seeing Junior. Richard waved off her suggestion not to tell Gbenga they knew for certain that he was Junior’s father. His refusal was cold. The coldness, dilated in the edges when his voice wavered as he told her he loved her that morning. That was why she was keen to meet her father-in-law at the airport. Keen to have his parents on her side again. Keen to win her husband’s love back.
She wished she had suggested they stay in a hotel overnight when her brother’s driver warned her that travelling back to Abeokuta at that time of the night could be precarious. But she was fed up with her father-in-law’s dirty looks. She was desperate to get back to Abeokuta where she knew her husband would leap to her defence. The thoughts of her children – especially, Taye who had regular nightmares at night – spurred her to action. She fished out her purse. Which she had wedged between the folds of her wrapper, after her brother’s driver spotted the mysterious grey Peugeot 504 car trailing them when they turned into Isale–Ake road.
“Please ….take my purse. I have one hundred and…fifty pounds in it. I have naira too…” She held out her purse with a trembling hand. Her tears merging with her sweat.
To Eniola’s horror the two armed men laughed. She realised that even if her brother’s driver- who was bleeding away in the driver’s seat- had stopped early enough, it still would not have mattered.
Her heart ceased beating when she saw the dark skinned robber pull the trigger. The men left her and jumped into their car. She felt herself falling. Falling rapidly. The car seat from underneath her wasn’t there to catch her floating body.
Then, she was back there again. In her mother’s rented flat, telling Gbenga that she would always love him. Telling him, that her going to London to join her father would not break them. It would help their shared dreams become a reality. She could feel fresh tears on her face. Her tears melting into her breast as they kissed. Then, she and her little sister were in London. The cold wintry blasts refusing to welcome them with open hands. Her father promised her that London would warm up soon. That in time, she wouldn’t feel the need to talk to her mother and brother every evening. Her father had no idea it was not seeing Gbenga, her love, that was killing her. To cure her unhappiness, her father introduced her to his best friend’s son. She remembered giving him haughty looks when the bony lengthy thing showed up at her father’s flat with long hair that needed tending. The man – a young Richard- took her and her little sister to the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square and boating on the River Thames. She started to forgive his Queen’s English accent and learnt to suppress the laughter that threatened to spill out of her guts every time she saw him kiss his mum goodbye. But she couldn’t suppress her laughter when he asked her out after behaving oddly around her for a while. Her response in rigid Yoruba was purposefully discourteous.
To her surprise he didn’t give up. He sent flowers and chocolates. He bought her dozens of phone cards- to ring her family back home – which she used to ring Gbenga. She had to agree to go on a date with him. Her father told her he saw them together in his visions. They were going to make a powerful couple. It would make him happy if she did as he wanted. She went to the cinema with Richard and suppressed a gag when he kissed her at the end of the night. His facial hair making the experience hardly worth remembering. Eniola expected him to stop bothering her. He didn’t. His parents joined in, calling her their daughter-in-law every Sunday, the families attended church together at Wood Green. Her father’s eyes followed her every where, warning her she would be throwing away a great future, if she didn’t grab her chance with both hands.
“I…. like you but Rotimi, you are moving too fast for me.”
She told him during a heart to heart in his father’s house after he presented her with a ring one afternoon.
“We don’t have to get married just yet. Take the ring. Maybe one day, you will love me in return. All I know is I love you Eniola. I really do.” Richard told her.
She started to warm towards him then. But death paid her family a visit and brought her and her father back to Nigeria to bury her mother. Her grief led her into the waiting arms of Gbenga. After he made her a woman, she was sure she wanted to be with him forever. But that weekend, Gbenga left her in his one room apartment on her own, with the thoughts salvaging her heart for company.That was when she made up her mind. To return to London with her father and marry Richard. He would never have left her on her own.
He never did. During their second honeymoon in a chilly castle in Scotland- when she started throwing up- he didn’t leave her side. He stayed with her during her labour. Stood with her when she returned to university.
Eniola fought to keep her eyes open. She told herself, she had to do it for the sake of her poor children. Who would care for her girls if she died? Terror gripped her when she tried to move her head from the seat and found she couldn’t. Her phone was in her bag. Her bag inches from her. But her hand kept failing her every time she tried to reach it. The road was still pitch-black and deserted. The last car she saw was after they passed Asero . She didn’t need anyone to tell her that the dampness surrounding her wrapper was her own blood. She started to pray for her children as she realised that dawn wouldn’t come soon enough.