Although he was walking towards her, all she could see was his back turned on her, walking away. She kept reliving the day he walked away from her even when he got to her side of the table and put his hand round her to give her a quick hug. She didn’t move or say anything. He kissed her on the forehead before taking the seat beside her. He smelt sweet-scented. Intoxicating to her senses, so that she ended up looking into his brown eyes.
He looked more gorgeous than she remembered in a tailored buba and sokoto ensemble. Quite uncharacteristic of him to be dressed like that but rather pleasing to her eyes.
“How are you babe?”
To Richard’s dismay, that was the first thing that left his lips despite all the rehearsed apologies that he had mauled and whittled in his head like a perfect sonnet. He had her in front of him at last but his brain was foggy. Clouded with restrained emotions he thought only teenagers like his son were foolish to let themselves feel.
“What are you doing here Richard?” Desola choosed not to show that his showing up like that had taken her by surprise. “You got me here under false pretence. I am supposed to be meeting Ife’s brother.”
He dipped his hand in his pocket, brought something out and passed it to her. It was a small box wrapped in a cream and pink paper. Kenny’s scribble was on it. She unwrapped the parcel as a bartender took their orders.
She examined the gold watch in the box with suspicion. “You bought me a watch. Okay.”
“Kenny picked that watch for you sweetheart. She wanted to use the money in her piggy bank to buy it until I stepped in. They miss you that much.”
Desola’s gaze fell on the floor. Her fingers caressed the watch. She didn’t want to think about the last time she saw the girls. They were rushing to school with their grandmother.
“I was in a bad place. Going through all sorts and you wanted to know how I felt. It was too much pressure…..”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
“I saw you with Alex and I assumed something was going on. I am sorry.” His hand reached for her other hand on the table. “Give me another chance. Let me show you how I feel about you.”
She wanted to know what he was doing in Nigeria. When on Tuesday evening, he was in London. But more importantly, she wanted to stop feeling anything for him.
Her face tilted towards his. “You are still inlove with your wife, I can’t compete with that.”
“Listen please Desola. I am not going back without you. Junior is here with me, so….”
Her face lit up. “Are the girls here too?”
Richard shook his head. “They are in London with mum. Junior wants to meet his father. That is partly the reason we are here.” He paused to take a sip of his drink. “When I booked our flights, I knew you wouldn’t see me if I didn’t play my cards right. Sister Grace came up with the plan because I knew I just couldn’t turn up on your father’s doorstep.”
“Has Junior met him yet?”
She didn’t want to hurt Richard by referring to Junior’s biological father as his father. Richard would give the worst lover on earth a run for his money. But there was no better father than him.
“He is not in Abeokuta yet. Anyway, we got here yesterday. I wanted to see you first. I have missed you.” He flashed her a grin and traced the inside of her palm.She knew she had to say something. His grin had softened her up.
She needed her guard up again. “Ife told me that you stepped down as Pastor. You did the right thing.”
“I should never have agreed to be the church’s Pastor. I am a flawed individual. Well, I was. Eniola’s father helped me get to this stage. I realised with his help that self loathing is a not helping anyone. My children can’t be happy when I think I don’t deserve to be happy.”
Her shoulders were not arched anymore.
Richard’s words came out in dribs and drabs. “I blame myself for what happened to my wife. She shouldn’t have gone to the airport…. on her own to pick up my father. But I was so angry.”
His grip on her hand tightened. “My father called me from London wanting to know how it was going. He was angry that I decided to meet with Junior’s… father with Eniola. He called me a fool.” His brows creased as if their owner was in agony. “Dad jumped on the next plane down here. I was angry with my wife, so I let her go to the airport on her own.”
“It wasn’t your fault. If you had gone with her, those robbers would have killed you too.”
That was what Eniola’s father said to him during their session. But yet, hearing it from her didn’t make it anymore believable. “I should have gone with her. I made a terrible decision.” He exhaled noisily. “And then afterwards, I made a thousand more terrible decisions.”
“We shouldn’t have hooked up.”
“No babe.” His voice crept up. “I am not saying that at all. I regret a lot of things but not us.”
A smile lit up her face. Richard received it warmly. Happy that his trip to Nigeria might not end with him tied up in knots. Despite his father-in-laws’ pleas to him to let Junior meet his father, the idea hadn’t settled well with him. He hoped seeing Desola would put him in a good mood needed for his arranged meeting with Gbenga – Junior’s father- later.
She found herself changing the subject because she didn’t feel like trekking old paths. Not with her head stuffed full of worries. They were chatting about his daughters when Fausat walked in. Desola pulled her hand out of Richard’s immediately. Fausat walked towards them, a shy smile that Desola never knew her sister was capable of exhibiting, dancing on her face.
“That’s my sister.” She told him.
When he saw her sister, Richard wondered why the girl seemed so familiar. She was smaller than Desola. Petite and shades paler. The sisters didn’t look alike but yet it felt as if he had seen her before.
He rose when Fausat got to their table.“You must be the lovely sister she is always gushing about.”
“Fausa, this is Richard. Ife’s brother-in-law.” Desola told a tongue-tied Fausat.
Richard shook Fausat’s hand. “I am more than Ife’s brother-in-law.” A cheeky smile widened his face. He left for the bar to get Fausat a drink. A request she barely managed to get out because of her giggles.
Desola explained how Richard turned up instead of his brother-in-law when Fausat told her she was worried that the man she was supposed to be meeting had abducted her.
Fausat gushed. “I thought you said he is forty. He doesn’t look forty. Our Dad is forty. That man doesn’t look a day over thirty. He looks hot too.”
“Fausa, stop looking at him.” Desola warned teasingly, worried that Richard would guess what they were talking about. “Daddy is forty seven by the way. And he has a busier life than Richard with our mums and his numerous girlfriends.”
Richard made sure he made an effort to get to know Fausat when he rejoined the ladies. Fausat told him some of their childhood tales. Tales he knew Desola wouldn’t have surrendered. Fausat told him about the day Desola cooked them yam porridge with the yam’s skin still intact. And then, there was the day she added salt instead of sugar to their pap. He was quite surprised to hear that his Desola was doing all this at age nine. He wondered where their mothers were. Wondered, if they were too busy buying the best Kpomo to go in their husband’s stew, when their children were going hungry. It didn’t matter though. He knew he would do his best to get on with her family. His phone’s ringtone interrupted their conversation.It was Ola’s number flashing on his screen.
“Excuse me ladies, I have to take this. It’s Ola. He is probably outside.” Richard picked up the call. He spoke in Yoruba for a while and then ended the call. “Desola, I have to go. I am supposed to be meeting the man we are in town for soon. I want to get to know him before Junior meets him. But, I want you to meet Ola first. I’ve asked him to come in.”
“Ok.” Desola replied. Richard was telling Fausat it was lovely to meet her when Ola walked in. Desola and Fausat greeted him in Yoruba whilst Richard did the introductions. He looked like a younger Elder Iwoye would have looked like. As tall as Richard but slimmer than him.
Richard noticed the way Ola kept starring at Fausat. He made a mental note to ask what that was about in the car. As he bade Desola farewell, Ola interrupted his conversation with her.
“Desola, I think I know your sister.” Ola said, still starring at a bemused Fausat. “I saw you in Lagos last year. Didn’t I? I was visiting my friend in Ikeja. Do you know him?”
“He is my uncle.” Fausat’s face showed recognition. “I remember you. You came to Uncle’s house.”
Ola became excited. “Of course, silly me. You are his niece. You two are Alhaji Shodeke’s daughters. Don’t you remember me? I used to come to your house with my sister, Eniola.”
His eyes came to rest on Desola. “You must be Aisha, the eldest child.” Desola did not dare breathe. The last time anyone called her Aisha was when she was a child.
“What are you talking about?” Richard asked. He wasn’t enjoying the conversation going on.
Ola didn’t look happy. “Gbenga is their Uncle.The same Gbenga you are in Naija for.”