“What do you mean? Desola’s surname is Shodeke. Gbenga’s surname is not Shodeke. It’s Ogunjimi,” Richard told Ola.
“That is because Gbenga is Alhaji’s half-brother.” Ola said before turning to Desola who had sat back in her seat, her palms on the sides of her face. “Will you tell him please, Desola?”
Richard saw her face crumble. “Please tell me Gbenga is not your only uncle. You have several uncles, right?” He said a silent prayer. His son’s father could not be Desola’s rapist uncle. Eniola wouldn’t have gone near a man like that. Desola didn’t answer him.
It was her sister that answered instead. “He is our uncle, our father’s only brother.”
Richard headed for the door. The air in the room was suffocating him. Outside wasn’t any better. He shielded his head from the sun and slowed down to let Ola catch up with him. He stopped in front of Ola’s car when the latter asked him to stop.
Ola reached Richard in a few seconds. “Chill man yi joo. So what, he is the girl’s uncle? You will just tell him he can see Junior once or twice a year. You can still get the girl. Lobatan.”
“Well, it isn’t as simple as that Olaitan,” Richard replied. “Desola told me about his hands-on style in London. I am not sure that he is the kind of man I want my son to be seeing at all.” Ola glared at him. “He let his filthy hands wander to his nieces, Ola.”
“No! What are you talking about? Gbenga is my friend. He would never do anything like that.”
Richard fought to keep his voice down. “He was your friend decades ago. You two went your separate ways in your teens. Maybe he changed or something. All I know is what Desola told me. And, I believe her.” His frown deepened. “What I don’t believe is, how come Eniola didn’t recognise Desola?”
“The last time Mama Junior saw Desola… I think Desola would have been three or four years old because I remember her telling Mama Junior that she had started school. But it was a long time ago. And she has become a fully-grown woman now, who doesn’t look anything like her father or uncle.”
Richard caught his breath when his phone started ringing in his sokoto’s pocket. He knew it was Gbenga ringing him. They had agreed that morning that Gbenga would ring him as soon as he got in town. Before he left London, his father-in-law convinced him that the reason he didn’t feel like trusting Gbenga was all to do with his unwillingness to accept another man as Junior’s father. The old man convinced him that Gbenga’s lie, that he had secured a visa to come to the UK, might have been something he had to do. A desperate action by a father desperate to see his own son. His overall values should not be judged by that single action.
But am I supposed to ignore the fact that the man is a pervert?
Ola’s voice broke into his thoughts. “The girls are leaving. If you want to talk to Desola, here is your chance.”
Richard looked up and saw the girls exiting Lounge Felicia. Fausat stopped at the entrance and Desola walked towards him. She didn’t seem pleased. As if sensing her mood, Ola jumped into the car.
“Desola, sorry…” Richard started to say.
“It’s rude to walk away from a girl you claim to like. But that is what you do. I’m just never gonna get used to it. I don’t care anymore, Richard.” She was about to turn round when his hand grabbed her wrist.
“I’m sorry. I freaked out, that’s all. This won’t affect us. Nothing ever will.” He sighed when she smiled. “Please don’t rush off. I need to know when I can see you again.”
Drivers in their cars driving towards Bameke area could easily see them if they slowed down before the roundabout. It worried her that her father might be on his way home.
I don’t think Alhaji would be pleased if he saw me chatting to a man in broad daylight. “I really have to go. You can ring me later,” she told him.“But when you see my uncle, don’t tell him you know me. He will twist things.”
“I won’t. Trust me,” he said, forcing a grin. “Please keep yourself safe. I am not comfortable knowing that you are going back to that house. He will be there too.”
“He might stay in his flat in Elite. Besides, our house is jam-packed at the moment. He will be foolish to try anything. Don’t worry. Okay?”
The girls refused a lift home, so Richard and Ola were back at Ise Omo Lodge, the late Mrs Iwoye’s house, sooner than they should have been.
As soon as Ola had parked the car behind his wife’s car, he turned to Richard. “You can’t catch the next plane out of here Rotimi. Junior is not seven anymore, that plan will backfire. But, if you insist that you want to get out of here, me and Iya yi can get you a bunch of unemployed people to pretend to be Gbenga’s family.”
His curiosity got the better of him. “Why?”
Ola clapped. “We will rent a face-to-face building and with 500 naira in their pockets, these fake family members we have hired will cry until their tears run dry. If you double their wages they can even cry you a river. We will take Junior there and tell him his father has kicked the bucket.”
Alhaji Shodeke didn’t come home until Sunday evening. Desola made up her mind to tell him everything, encouraged by the short but loaded text message that Richard sent her on Saturday night, ‘I am not going back without you.’
When she got to her father’s sitting room though, she found the door shut. Her father was talking to someone in Yoruba.
“Why naa Alhaji? You are my brother not his. Why were you talking to him as if he is somebody important?” She heard another voice in the room trying to interrupt her father’s ranting. She recognised the feminine-sounding voice as her uncle’s. Suddenly, she felt as if her legs had been replaced with blocks of jelly.
“Aburo, I know you. I know you don’t want the boy. You just want to make life hard for the father. As for me, I will keep ringing the father until he agrees to bring the boy here. You can meet him then.” Her father’s voice had crept over the other voice again.
“He is my son.” Her uncle didn’t sound happy. “My child doesn’t belong to that coconut who thinks he is better than everyone else just because he lives in London. Alhaji, let me teach that bastard a lesson. He stole my woman from me.”
Desola could hear her dad opening what sounded like a bottle. “Gbenga if you stop beating your fiancé, she will take you home so you can fix a date for the wedding. She called me on Friday saying you whacked her on the head again.”
Desola heard her uncle laughing. She was about to go back downstairs, when the door opened. Her uncle was standing there, gawking at her until she found her voice and offered a feeble greeting. He hadn’t changed much except for the partial balding that she noticed.
“Alhaji, you didn’t tell me Desola is home.” Gbenga pulled her into his arms, holding her closer and longer than required. His head stopped around her neck. Despite her refusal, he insisted on her coming into her father’s sitting room to tell him all about London. As soon as her father excused himself to take a call outside the room, Gbenga offered her a drink.
“I don’t drink, Uncle,” she snapped, before she could stop herself. When she looked at him at the bar, she noticed he was watching her with curious eyes.
“Desola, I am only offering you coke. I don’t know what sort of men you’ve mingled with in London but kai, am not like that.” His eyes were almost drilling a hole in her. They shifted to her exposed bust. Desola got up and rushed into the toilet. She saw her reflection in the mirror. She was shaking so much that she had to steady herself by holding the sides of the sink. Seeing her uncle had reduced her to shreds. How could she defend her sisters and protect them when all it took for her to reduce to shreds was simply seeing him?
When she got back into her father’s sitting room, her father was sitting on his couch talking about the mosque. Gbenga had put her drink on the table.
“Desola, beautiful girl, join us,” Gbenga insisted, pointing at the drink. She sat down for a while, drinking most of the coke before retreating to her bedroom.
Her eyes had started to protest before she managed to pull her dress over her head. She couldn’t understand why she felt so sleepy after getting ten hours sleep last night. Fausat had gone to her friend’s house and was yet to come back. She knew it wasn’t 8pm yet, but her body felt as if it was gone past midnight.
She started dreaming as soon as soon as her head hit the pillow. Eniola and her were in her father’s compound.
“Please, Desola, you and Richard have to go back to London. Please don’t sleep. You are in danger.” Eniola screamed at her, jolting her out of her reverie.
Slowly, she forced her eyes open. It took her a while before her brain registered where she was. Her head hurt. But she knew she would have to turn on the light as darkness had enveloped the room. She turned her head to the right. And there, standing in the corner of her room was the figure of a man, she knew too well. Her uncle.