Desola couldn’t move. It was as if a truckload weight was weighing her down. Her uncle moved closer to the bed. Whatever had taken hold of her body had seized her tongue too.
“Desola, my Desola. I bet you have missed your uncle. I have missed you too, baby.” He sat on the bed next to her. “I hope you haven’t let any of those big jeans boys ruin you for your uncle.”
When his hand touched her face she was transported to her teenage years. To the days he rubbed himself against her in her father’s sitting room. To the days she was forced to sit by the gate in her school uniform- with Baba Risi- to avoid her uncle’s wandering eyes.
“Uncle… what are you doing here?” She asked, her voice barely a whisper. She had meant to scream the question at him. But her voice had let her down. Her limbs were letting her down too, refusing to do anything when his hand traced her cheekbone.
“You are a beautiful girl. It’s so unfair that you kept running from me. But now, you can’t run anymore,” he rasped.
Fear gripped her when the hidden meaning behind his words hit her. “What have you done to me?”
Gbenga laughed the same laugh that used to make her quake in her slippers when she was a child. “Fine girl, I didn’t do anything to you. Abi, you want Alhaji to kill me? Don’t blame me if you can’t take your Jack Daniels. I only put a few drops in your Coke.”
His hand moved from her face to her neck.
She felt sick. Angry. Richard wouldn’t forgive her if she didn’t fight him. But for some reason her hands wouldn’t listen to her brain.
“You are the best-looking girl in this house. Be nice to your…”
The door opened before he had a chance to finish his sentence. He jumped to his feet and moved away from the bed. The light from the hallway filtered into the bedroom, falling on his guilt-laden face. Fausat switched the light on and walked towards the bed.
“I think she drank from Alhaji’s cup by accident,” Gbenga said, before rushing out of the bedroom.
Fausat rushed to her sister’s side. “What did he do to you?”
“I am fine,” Desola told her whilst trying to sit up. Fausat helped her.
Desola put her palm to her mouth because she felt nauseous. She wanted Fausat to stop asking her questions and for the room to stop spinning.
Desola rubbed her face.“He put…. whisky or brandy in my coke. That’s all, Fausa.” She decided to keep some things back when she saw tears welling up in her sister’s eyes. “I am fine. Please sis, don’t cry. I just froze.”
“What if I hadn’t walked in? What would he have done?” Fausat continued. ” Uncle Richard called me. That’s why I came back. He said a Pastor in London is worried about you or something like that. He asked to speak to you.”
“Okay then. Let me ring him back. He will be worried.” Fausat took the phone out of her pocket and passed it to her. “I think you should ask Zaynab and Hadija to come up and sleep here tonight. Thank God Shalewa is at uni.” She knew she would sleep better knowing her sisters were in the same room as her. They would be safe with her.
“I will ask them to come up. They are going back to the school hostel tomorrow. At least we don’t have to worry about them from tomorrow.”
When Fausat left the room, Desola stared at the screen of the phone for ages. She needed to speak to Richard badly but she couldn’t dare tell him what had happened. If she told him, he wouldn’t be able to control himself. Someone would end up on murder charges and it wouldn’t be Gbenga.
She was typing a text message to him when she heard a sound by the door that made her jump. Her father pushed the door open. He was dressed in expensive agbada.
“Desola, I am going out,” he piped. “Your mother and Mummy Fausat are still next door with Alhaja. When they get back, tell them I have gone out. Just don’t tell them I won’t be back until tomorrow. Okay?”
“Tomorrow morning, make sure you tell the house girl to clean my sitting room. You and your sisters need to help her with the rest of the house.”
Desola wondered what her brother would be doing whilst they worked their paws off.
“We have important visitors coming tomorrow,” Alhaji continued. “Gbenga’s son and his father are coming here.”
Desola had no idea Richard had agreed to let Junior meet Gbenga. It was news to her.
“I persuaded the man myself to come here. So please, you girls and your mothers must not disgrace me tomorrow.”
Desola decided to tell her father if anyone was to disgrace him, it wouldn’t be the women but his own brother. She felt choked by all that she had kept in her stomach for years. She didn’t want to be petrified of speaking out anymore.
Frowns cut through Alhaji’s face. “Desola, I don’t have time to talk. I am rushing to meet someone important.” He slammed the door back in place and walked off. She was unable to stop her tears from streaming. She put her head on the pillow, needing someone, anyone, to comfort her. When the phone started to ring, she picked it up, knowing without checking it was Richard on the line. She let a few seconds drift by before saying hello.
“Desola, what’s wrong with you? Has something happened?”
“I’m fine. Sorry, I am in bed already. That’s why I sound tired.”
He sighed. “I was worried. Pastor Iwoye called me from London. He had this terrible dream and he wanted to know if you were alright. By the way, I am coming down with Junior to your house tomorrow.”
“I know. My dad told me.”
“I will let you get to sleep then, you sound half-asleep, sweetheart. Call me if you need anything. I will see you tomorrow.”
Richard was glad he hadn’t changed his mind about Junior seeing his biological father, when the two met in Alhaji’s sitting room. The meeting of father and son was so awkward that Richard decided if the first meeting was a sign of things to come, Gbenga posed no threat to his relationship with Junior. Alhaji made them feel welcome, chatting away to fill the gap whilst Gbenga stared at Junior. Everything was going so well- for Richard-until Desola came into the room with a woman he guessed had brought her into the world.That was when Richard remembered that he hadn’t told Junior to keep quiet about knowing Desola.
“Hello, Aunty Dee, Dad told me we are cousins,” Junior piped up before going over to her to hug her. “It has been ages.”
Richard turned to Alhaji quickly. “Your daughter is my sister-in-law’s friend, Alhaji.”
“Okay, I see.” Alhaji’s smile showed a gold tooth. “Then it means I don’t have to introduce you to her. She is my eldest.” He pointed to the woman beside Desola. “This is my first wife, Alhaja. She is the senior wife.”
Richard saw Desola’s face crease in a cringe when her mother bent her knees to greet him. Richard took both her hands instead.“I am so pleased to meet you, Ma.”
Perhaps because of her tribal marks, she looked at least a decade older than his late wife, although her bearing suggested the opposite.
It hurt Richard to have to turn down the woman’s offer of Amala and efo later on, as he and Alhaji chatted about the economy and politics. He wasn’t particularly hungry. And he wanted to keep his eyes on his son and Gbenga. Although from where they were on the sofa, they didn’t seem to be chatting much. Gbenga’s phone kept ringing and interrupting their conversation.
Eventually, Suab came into the room to ask if Junior wanted to join him and his friends downstairs in the family lounge. After the boys left the room, Alhaji asked to be excused too.
Desola came into the room to collect their used glass cups and bottles. A smile that he couldn’t ignore, lingered on her face. When she left the room, Gbenga moved towards him. He didn’t take a seat next to him. Instead, he remained standing, a frown darkening his face. Richard assumed he wanted to ask him about Junior.
“How long have you known my niece for?”
Richard took his time before answering. “Not as long as I would have liked to. What can I say? She is a lovely girl.” He saw a familiar look in Gbenga’s eyes that he didn’t like. He had seen that look before in the eyes of a client with a dual diagnosis at work.
Changing the subject wouldn’t hurt, Richard decided. “Tell me, are you pleased you have met Junior?”
“Stay away from Desola.”
“Or else?” He wanted to know.
Gbenga looked calm but his voice showed his rage. “Don’t underestimate me. Eniola did, look what happened to her.”