“Who is that that wants to break my gate, ehn?” Chief Alozie asked in an irritated voice, before yelling to the gateman to go and see who was at the gate.
The gateman was in the backyard and Nene beat him to the gate. As soon as she stepped outside, she saw Richard grinning.
He cleared his throat and announced:
“Nene, I am not the father. You … We were right. Tomiwa is not my son.”
He was so excited that he picked her up and planted a kiss on her cheek. Nene was happy too, but was less exuberant than Richard.
“What’s the matter now? Aren’t you happy for me?”
“I am. You’re lucky you know. In some countries, after this test, you would have been stuck paying child support till that child turned 18.”
“I know. We are lucky,” said Richard good naturedly.
“I feel bad for him … Tomiwa, I mean. I only spent a couple of hours with him. He deserves a loving father, and now, who knows who his father is.”
“Nene, his mother knows who the biological father is. You have to let her decide whether Tomiwa will meet his real father or not. It is not our place to decide. We just dodged a major bullet. We should be grateful.”
“I guess you’re right,” said Nene, allowing herself to breathe easy at last.
That day marked a turning point in their relationship. It was like the clock had been reset and they had a chance to start all over again. Richard was not taking anything for granted. He vowed to be open and honest with Nene from that day forwards. He kept his word.
* * *
Three months later, Nene moved back to Lagos. Although she had eventually landed the job at the hotel as a front desk clerk, she worked there for just one month.
A multi-national company had interviewed her in Lagos before moving to Asaba, and they had called her back for another series of interviews. This time around, she was successful and got an entry level position as a financial analyst.
She and Richard began to nurture what had now evolved into a long-distance relationship, as he was now fully involved with the management of the Asaba branch of his company. He tried to visit her whenever he was in Lagos, but Nene complained that she did not see him often enough.
In the months since she moved back to Lagos, Nene mused at the oddities of life. She had left Lagos to go to Asaba to find a job, but had found love instead.
Now, she was back in Lagos working at the job of her dreams, the one she had hoped and prayed for. But the man she had given her heart to was in Asaba. Why couldn’t she have it all?
A new year came along, and before she knew it, it was Valentine’s Day. It struck Nene that this was her and Richard’s first Valentine’s Day together since they started dating. The irony was that they were not together. Not physically.
Richard was in Asaba, and in fact had been unreachable that entire day. Apart from the typical early morning phone call, she had not heard from him and missed him terribly. Seeing lovers walk hand in hand almost everywhere she turned did not help either. She even saw a bus conductor giving a Val’s day gift of Digestive biscuits to a guava seller he was apparently dating.
But for Nene, there were no chocolates, no flowers, not even plantain chips. It was just a very dry, uneventful day.
Feeling very sorry for herself, she came back home from work, prepared to just eat and go to bed. There was no one at home when she arrived. Her parents had gone to attend a special church program, and her sister, Kamsi had not returned from the workplace where she was doing her industrial attachment.
As she turned on the TV, she caught the news headlines for the evening news.
ABA RAPIST CAUGHT IN ASABA
The police in Asaba had finally caught the Aba rapist while he was trying to molest a prostitute. The woman had fought back and severely wounded him with the heel of her shoe. That blow to his head, although not fatal, was powerful enough to knock him unconscious.
When the police arrived, and took down his details, they pieced together the missing parts of the puzzle, and positively identified him as the Aba rapist. The news announcer said his name, and Nene was glad it was not the name of anyone she knew. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, that’s the end of that,” she said as she shuffled to the kitchen to prepare dinner.
The doorbell rang with a decisive urgency, and Nene wondered who could possibly be at the door. She went to answer and was surprised to see a uniformed man standing there.
It was a DHL delivery man with a brown box. Her name was written in bold letters on it. Who on earth would send her a package? One name came to mind, but she still had to confirm.
She carried the box back to her room, and opened it. Inside the box was a shiny gold box with red ribbons. As she cut the ribbons excitedly, she wondered what was inside the box. She did not have to wait long.
As soon as she lifted the cover of the box, her eyes fell on a sealed red envelope. It was sitting on top of three smaller boxes. She saw the handwriting on the envelope and confirmed her suspicions. It was from Richard.
The three boxes, as Nene expected, contained assorted chocolates. These boxes were the typical red, heart-shaped boxes that seemed to surface all over Lagos around February every year. There was also a gold necklace in a blue, velvet-lined box.
To Nene, the card was the single most important item in that package. Her name was handwritten in bold letters on the envelope.
When she opened the pink card, the only words that were written in it by hand, underneath the printed words that came standard with the card, were these words:
Forever in my heart,
P.S. Read the letter.
There was a short letter written in blue ink on yellow lined paper that looked like it had been ripped from a notepad. In Richard’s chicken scratch handwriting, Nene made out the following words:
I know that by now you must have received the gifts. I hope you like them. I am sure you thought I had forgotten about today. How could I? A year ago, I came to Asaba for many different reasons, but God blessed me with the best gift ever: you. My Nene. I’m not one to write long letters, but I am excited about what the future holds in store for us.
This is the first and last letter I am writing to you that I will sign,
P.S. Come downstairs for your last surprise.
Nene was so happy, she left her parents three bedroom flat and ran downstairs, almost colliding with a neighbor ascending the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, was Richard in a gray suit and red silk tie, holding a bunch of roses in one hand. He scooped Nene in his arms and they shared a passionate kiss, completely ignoring another neighbor who walked past grumbling:
“Dis pikin dem, dem don spoil finish!”
“So, this was your surprise,” said Nene, smiling at Richard.
“Not really. I moved back to Lagos. That’s the surprise.”
Nene was overjoyed. Richard told her to save the celebration for later. He wanted her to go and change immediately. He was taking her out for dinner.
She ran upstairs while he waited in the car. She got dressed in less than thirty minutes, and left the letter and gifts on her bed. Then, she and Richard left together.
Less than an hour later, her sister, Kamsi arrived, followed closely by her parents, returning from their church program. Kamsi went to the room she shared with Nene.
As she was about to change from her work clothes, she noticed the yellow paper on Nene’s bed, amidst all the other goodies. She picked up the letter and read it.
Then, she rushed out of her room calling for her mother.
“Mama! Mama! When is the next bus going to Asaba? I must go and meet my own Prince Charming in Asaba!”
– THE END –