To everyone who’s been following this series, reading, commenting, critiquing or just waka-passing, thank you. I appreciate you. :-)
Here is Part 13. Enjoy!
“Richard, I’m talking to you. Tell me it’s not true,” said Nene, tears filling her eyes. She had hoped and prayed that it was just a hoax, something she could write off as the ravings of a jealous man, but the look in Richard’s eyes coupled with his silence, spoke volumes. She began to sob uncontrollably.
“Nene, I’m sorry … It’s um … it’s complicated. I should have told you earlier.”
“You bastard! How could you hide something of this magnitude from me? Did you think I wouldn’t find out? You’ve made a fool of me. Why me? W-h-y–” Nene cried.
“Nene, please let me explain–“
“Explain what? Unless you’re about to tell me that you’re not the child’s father, I don’t want to hear any useless explanation from you.”
“But that’s the thing, Nene. I’m not sure. I don’t know for sure if I’m Tomiwa’s father.”
“How can you not know? Who goes about claiming to be a child’s father without being certain?”
“Nene, you have every right to be angry, but if you would just calm down–“
“I am not calming down! It is because I was acting like a gentlewoman that you thought you could fool me. If you had tried this nonsense with one of those correct Lagos girls, you know what they would have done to you!”
“But you’re not like that now–“
“Which is why you took advantage of me, abi? I resemble mumu?”
Nene walked out and Richard went after her, begging her to come back. She had almost reached the gate when she remembered that a similar scene had played out between her and Paul.
After Paul introduced Boluke as his new girlfriend, Nene had stormed off immediately, cutting off all ties with the two of them. She had also lost the opportunity to get closure. Boluke, not Paul, had offered to explain, but Nene had left without waiting to hear the rest.
In the weeks that followed, she had wanted that explanation. She felt like that chapter in her life was still open, and that regardless of how lame or inadequate Boluke’s explanation was, it would still have been better than not knowing at all.
As Nene turned around to face Richard, she realized that she was doing the same thing again: running away without giving an opportunity for any explanation. She knew that her anger was justified, that she had been wronged, but she also knew that if she left Richard under these circumstances, she would be filled with regret for the rest of her life.
For whatever it is worth, let me hear what he has to say.
She allowed Richard to lead her back into the house, but rebuffed his attempts to hold her, to comfort her. She was not in the mood for that level of reconciliation. She just wanted closure.
“Nene, I know I have wronged you. I know I have hurt you deeply, but believe me when I say that I am truly sorry. I never intended to keep this away from you. I know you won’t believe me, but I planned to tell you. I just didn’t know how or when … And … and I was scared I would lose you.”
“So fear kept you from manning up, abi? You were so afraid that you forgot how to be a man. Is that your excuse? Isn’t that the excuse all you men give?” Nene sneered. She had wiped her eyes and sorrow was now replaced by resentment.
“Nene, I am not all men. I cannot speak for all men. I can only speak for Richard … for myself.”
A thought suddenly occurred to Nene.
“The person speaking Hausa … Yes, Richard, the person who always speaks to you in Hausa on the phone … is that your child’s mother? Your wife? Baby mama?” she asked.
“None of the above. It was my mother.”
“So, why didn’t you just tell me that before?”
“Because I would have had to tell you why she chose to speak to me in Hausa. Remember the last time she called, and you were there, she was asking about the child. Tomiwa, I mean, and his mother, Enitan.”
“Wait o … Isn’t that your ex-girlfriend? The one you said was your fellow corper in Kogi?” Nene said in surprise.
“Yes … Yes, that’s her. Enitan Ibiwoye,” said Richard bitterly.
“I regret the day I met her.”
“I bet you do now,” said Nene, eyeing him.
“No, Nene. I’m serious. Look this is what happened: My youth service was four years ago.”
“That is 2009, right?”
“Yes. That’s when it ended. That was also the year when I ended my relationship with Enitan. I never went back to her, I swear by my mother’s–“
“There’s no need for all that efizi, Mr. Bakare. Just continue.”
“Why now? How did I become Mr. Bakare? Richard is just–“
“Isn’t that your name? Abi, is that also a lie?”
“Nene, look. Sarcasm will not help–“
“Richard, just carry go. I’m listening,” Nene interrupted impatiently.
“Okay. If you say so,” he said sulking.
“After we completed our service and left Kogi, I did not see her again. Not until last year. November 2012. I kept the same phone number since my NYSC days, so she had my number. She called me out of the blues, and said she had something important to discuss with me–“
“I thought it was harmless, so I agreed. I thought maybe she wanted my help with some business … you know … or something like that. Only for her to tell me she had a son. I even congratulated her and asked after the child’s father, until she said: ‘You are the father.’ I thought she was joking. In fact, I told her she was not serious, but she insisted that she was telling the truth. See, we broke up shortly before our service year ended, and–“
“Bla, bla, bla! Here we go! Save all these explanations for someone who cares jo! All you suppose talk be say de kain dangerous play wey una dey play on top mattress don turn to belle … Finish!” said Nene sarcastically.
Richard paused and opened his mouth like he was going to say something to her, but decided against it. He took a deep breath and simply picked up from where he stopped.
“You’re right that is what happened, but that is not all. According to her, after we broke up, she discovered that she was pregnant, but decided not to contact me. She felt sure that I would deny paternity of the child, and decided to raise the child by herself.”
“Would you … I mean, would you have denied paternity?” Nene asked curiously.
“No, I would never do such a thing. I’m a responsible man.”
“Some people would argue otherwise, but hey, carry on. So why did she call you?”
“The child was going to start nursery school this year. He was two years old at the time she came to see me. He actually turned three in July. She wanted him to start when he turned three, and said she did not want his education to suffer. She’s a teacher here in Asaba, and can’t afford to pay his school fees if he attends a private school.”
“Wait … what did you say?”
“She can’t afford–“
“No. Before that. You said she was a teacher, right?” said Nene, sitting up.
“Yes. She teaches Biology at a secondary school here in Asaba,” said Richard quite surprised. “Why did you ask?”
“What’s the name of the school, Richard?” Nene asked.
“Oh, never mind,” Nene said in a deflated voice. “I thought I could explain how Brother James came to know about Enitan and the child. Maybe someone told him. But wait o. Did you say Graceville College?”
“My cousins attend that school. Isn’t it the one on Summit Road?”
“Yes. That’s the one. Small world.”
“A very, small world indeed.”
There was a short silence as each person’s thoughts wandered off, but then Richard broke the silence with:
“So that’s why she contacted me. She wanted me to at least pay for the child’s school fees. At first, I refused. Remember her history during our NYSC days? I was skeptical about the child’s paternity, so I told her that I needed proof. She said the only proof she was going to give me was the child’s picture. She showed me his picture, and honestly, Nene … he kinda looks like me. I mean, his ears are pointy just like–“
“Ehn ehn! Please spare me the details.”
“Well, my mother took Enitan’s side. When she saw the picture, she agreed that he was my son. She says he has my nose and … Sorry, Nene. I’m making you uncomfortable. I know this is not what you want to hear, but I have my doubts.”
“So your mother supported her too? Wonderful. I guess it’s settled then. I mean, your mother can’t be wrong.”
“I challenged my mum, especially because of what I knew about Enitan. But she insisted that Enitan was right. In her words, “a mother will always know who the father of her child is.” Who can argue with that?”
“Certainly not me.”
“So whenever my mother called, I insisted on speaking to her in Hausa so you would not know what we were discussing. I’m sorry, Nene,” a shame-faced Richard said.
“Are you sure that is all you wanted to tell me? Look, if you have another Baby Mama who has had twins for you, tucked away somewhere in Abeokuta, this would be the time to speak up.”
“Haba, Nene! I said I was sorry. Why do you think I am still hiding anything from you?”
“Old habits die hard, Mister.”
“Look Nene, it was originally because of Enitan and Tomiwa that I came to Asaba. Opening a new branch was just secondary. I wanted to have some sort of relationship with the child, you know. But life in Asaba has taken on a new meaning for me since I met you. You made me believe I could start afresh, like there was still hope for me. Please Nene, I know I have messed up, but please don’t leave me.”
By this time, Richard was already on his knees and holding Nene’s hands. She started crying again. She knew he was telling the truth, but she was reluctant to forgive him just then. He would need to earn her trust again.
“Richard … get up,” Nene said in-between sobs. He did, and she allowed him hold her for a few minutes before pulling away from him.
“I’m still angry with you, and I will probably be angry for the next few weeks. But, you have to let that anger run its course. You have to understand that all this … this news is overwhelming, you having a child with your ex-girlfriend. I am not sure I can handle it, but I will try. What I really want is clarity. I listened to everything you said, about Enitan and Tomiwa, and the one thing that kept coming up was this: you doubt that this child is truly your son. From what you have told me about Enitan, and also judging from the circumstances under which she contacted you, I have my own doubts too. She seems to be a very smart person, so why did she not try to contact you when she discovered that she was pregnant? There’s something else she is not telling you. Besides, I am not sure I can date a man who already has a child–“
“I understand, Nene. And I don’t blame you. But for my sake … please, I don’t want to lose you.”
“Let’s take this one step at a time, okay.”
“Okay. I think we first need to find out for certain if I am Tomiwa’s father. When we know for sure, then whatever decision you take is fine by me.” Nene knew Richard was just saying that to calm her down. She knew that even if Richard discovered that he was truly the child’s father, he would still try to convince her not to leave him.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Meanwhile, how can we do a paternity test?”
“See, that’s why I stopped in Aba, when I was coming to Asaba for the first time. Someone told me about a lab in Aba operated by a very meticulous gentleman. Among other things they do DNA tests. I stopped there and checked out the facilities before coming here. You would be really surprised. That place is loaded o, well-equipped and everything. You won’t believe it’s in Nigeria.”
“Are you serious? In Aba? But come o … a lab in Aba? Hmmm … I don’t trust.”
“Look, Nene. I know what you mean, but I would feel more comfortable if the results came from Aba where no one knows either me or Enitan, than here in Asaba, where only God knows which of her relatives or friends works where.”
“That’s true. Aba would be a neutral place. They would have no incentive to tamper with the results there. So, what are we going to do, Richard?” Nene asked.
“Let’s sleep on it. Quality ideas will come after we have rested,” said Richard.
Nene agreed with him, and they decided to meet the following day at the same time.
– to be continued –