“What has your poor wife done to deserve this Richard? She is back living in her father’s council flat when you are still alive. Did we not raise you well? If you have trouble in your matrimonial home, you call families from both sides and elders from the church to help you sort it out. As a matter of fact, I am sure Eniola has done nothing wrong. I am sure he is the one that has done something terrible, you watch Mary”
Pastor John turned towards his wife on his last sentence. His belly bobbed upwards and sweat dripped from his balding head as he spoke.
“Please dad today is a Sunday. I don’t want to dwell on the subject of my marriage which is already dead in the water. I have only come to see my children. Soon the matter between me and Eniola will be sorted” Richard said, his eyes on his mum’s face. Her eyes were wet. That hurt him beyond words. His wife’s actions was not just crippling him but tearing apart is nearest and dearest too.
Richard walked towards the double glazed window of the spacious kitchen of his parent’s home. His son Junior was outside in the back garden making a job of wetting his mum’s flowerbed. He knew his twin daughters were upstairs in one of the bedrooms upstairs because he could hear their racket.
“So, why did you not come to church again this Sunday Richard? Your children were so upset. Kehinde kept asking for you. This is why their mum asked us to bring them down to our house so you can come and see them or take them out” Pastor John said, his hefty frame still blocking the kitchen door.
“I took them out on Friday before dropping them off with Eniola yesterday” Richard told his parents.
“But you could still have come to church son. No matter what is going on in your personal life, you should never turn your back on God. I will go and get the twins” With that, Pastor John left the room.
Richard moved closer to the window. He could not stand the brick wall that now seemed permanently erect between him and his son. When he had arrived few minutes before, Junior had been in the kitchen using a laptop on the table. He greeted his father and swiftly left the room. Richard watched him from the window. Junior had finished wetting the flowers. He seemed to be texting on his new phone now.
Richard started to think again about the brown envelope that arrived by special delivery first thing Saturday morning. The envelope that contained the DNA result, he had sworn would not change anything. But yet, he had simply left the envelope unopened on the dining table. He had known then on Saturday when the letter arrived that he was not ready to find out he hadn’t fathered his own son. The irony of it was, when he called Eniola to tell her he wanted a DNA done to determine if he was Junior’s biological father, he had insisted on it. He did not think it was possible to move on without knowing for sure. Eniola voiced her reservations. But in the end, she agreed with him, it was the right thing to do. They then decided that their children would stay with her during the week. They would come to him every Friday after school. Eniola then started to plead with him again to which Richard had his usual response ready. “I am not ready to talk about it Eniola “. That was how they left their conversation.
Richard felt his mum’s hand on his back. He wrapped his strapping arms round her podgy frame. He saw her look up at his face.
“I am ok ma, I promise”
“Atleast let me put some rice and fish stew in a tuberware for you so you can warm it up in the microwave tonight. Or are you staying with us for dinner? Please stay Richard. I will make you amala if you want”, she pleaded.
“Mum, I ate at Lanre’s house. Thank you”, Richard knew his mum was trying to get him to stay until Eniola’s arrival later to pick up the children. Richard heard the twins before he saw them. Kehinde jumped into his arms screaming daddy before, he lowered his body to let Taye latch on to him too. They both smelled of their mum’s moisturizing lotion. The seven year old girls nestled their small limbs into his.
A while later, Richard was stood in the garden next to his son. He had stood in the same spot for a while, willing Junior to say something more than a monosyllable to him.
“Son, please don’t blame me. I am sorry about all this but don’t be angry with me”
“Mum keeps crying every time we go round to grandpa’s flat” Junior told him, his earth covered trainers digging into a weeded patch.
“I am sorry son”
“Don’t say sorry dad. Just do something and stop punishing me and my sisters. It’s so unfair that we are suffering because of you”. Junior shot at Richard before running into the house.
Desola was on her way to check the mail box downstairs when she walked into Richard at the top of the stairs. He grabbed her waist to stop her from toppling down the stairs. He held on to her for a few seconds longer than needed.
She wished she hadn’t taken off her leggings as soon as she arrived from church, leaving her with half the outfit, a white short dress dotted with pink specks that stopped inches before her knee caps. She felt uncovered.
“Sorry” she managed.
“Hey sister, where are you running to? He chided her teasingly.
She smiled. Her braids were down, mimicking natural straight hair with their compact fullness. Her face looked unsullied with the tip of her nose bearing a hint of oil as if she had dabbed some cleansing lotion on her face to remove her make up. Her feet were in cerise flipflops, showing her red painted toe nails. He swallowed, trying to dislodge the lump in his throat when his eyes took him slightly to her upper legs. Her dress which looked more like a top stopped inches above the knees, lifting his mind out of the locker it had been in for days.
Richard had not seen Desola in a while. He concluded that she was avoiding him when she sent him a text message asking him for his email, after he requested to have a look at her essay as they had planned.
“Thanks for your help with my essay. I passed” she announced beaming.
“Welldone. Great news. That was a quick turnaround. How long does your feedback usually take?
“It came back quicker than usual. Thanks for your help” Desola was still beaming.
“Can I read the feedback? I am assuming you have a paper copy in the flat”, he asked.
Desola stopped smiling. She wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to invite him back into the flat, especially when Grace was still at the church in a choir meeting. She led him back to the flat anyway, her heart beating a little louder than usual.
Desola poured Richard a glass of schloer in the flat which he gulped most of as he read her submission and feedback. After he had finished reading the feedback and declared that the final submission deserved a distinction not a mere pass, the drink went on the stool beside him. He reclined on the leather sofa staring at a photo of a younger Desola with clipped hair on the mantle piece; her wiry arms were draped around a boy.
Desola joined him from the open plan kitchen and sat on the edge of the sofa. The alluring smell of his aftershave made her fingertips tingle. She noticed he had had a hair cut, making it seem as if years had shifted from his face. He turned to her.
“That photo was taken six years ago. The young boy is my brother. I was only sixteen then”, she told him.
Richard did a quick maths and realised he had been fantasizing over a girl barely older than his son. His psyche appalled him.
“I was so slim then. Look at me now, I am not exactly slim anymore” She whinged.
“You are perfect honey. You are, believe me.” he rasped. His crossness with himself did not last long.
Desola grabbed the remote control beside her. She placed it down on the sofa between them without using it. She wondered what to say to change the subject without sounding rude.
“I wonder why your sister-in-law is not picking my calls”, she started. The situation was giving her sleepless nights. “I just want to tell her, no hard feelings. I saw her in church today and she pretended not to hear me when I called out her name before the service”
“Desola sweetheart, Ife is avoiding you because she has a guilty conscience. The truth is, she started dating Femi your ex months ago. He was still with you when they got together. I know this because it was me and my wife that persuaded her to tell you the truth, when we couldn’t get her to end it ” Richard paused because he saw the astonishment on her face.
“I didn’t realise you loved him? Richard moved closer to her on the sofa as he uttered his statement: more like a question than a statement.
“I wasn’t inlove with him. I am just disappointed my best friend didn’t think twice before doing this. Why do people that you care about lie?’’
“I wouldn’t lie to you honey” Richard whispered.
He tilted Desola’s chin towards him with his right hand. When his lips found her soft ones, he knew he wouldn’t stop until she was his because parts of him that he thought were deceased, stirred as she yearned for his determined hands.