“It’s a nightmare mum! How has Dad coped with those people?”
Lanre and his mother were seated in the family living room after Mr Williams had retired to bed. It was the only time that they could speak freely about the activities of the company under the William offspring. Mr Williams’ blood pressure would probably rise again if he knew how chaotic things were at the company. The staff did not appreciate the fact that the chairman’s snobbish children were taking over from their father or their new ideas. Board meetings ended in a battle of words and the company revenue gradually declined. The Williams children were starting to regret their decision to continue their father’s legacy.
“You have to be patient…”
“That’s what you’ve been saying mum!” Remi said coming into the room and sitting opposite her. “I honestly don’t know how much more I can stand the disaster in the company.”
“So you want to give up?” her mother asked.
“I knew this whole thing was a bad idea!” she muttered.
“Don’t say that Remi.” Lanre said, more concerned about his mother’s feelings.
“Of course, not when you’re the MD.” She replied sarcastically.
“What’s that supposed to mean? You think this is all my fault?”
“I didn’t say that but you obviously think so.”
“Remi…” her mother warned.
“No don’t stop her mum, let her say what’s on her mind.”
“Remi, why do you always do this?” her mother asked wearily.
“You know what, I’m going to bed but I will say this before I leave. You’re the MD now, take charge of the situation or let someone else who can do so.”
Mother and son sat in stunned silence.
“She’s right you know.” the mother said after a while. “You’re now in charge. Do whatever you need to do to make this work.”
Lanre shook his head sadly.
“I’m going to get another bottle of malt. I did not miss the Nigerian heat!” Gbemi said leaving Remi and Lanre in the room. Gbemi and Remi had just returned from the UK where they were studying. Lanre had been home a couple of days before.
“How’s school?” Lanre asked.
“Fine. How are you?”
A moment of awkward silence passed.
“So are you going to see her?” Remi asked.
“You know who.” She replied meaningfully.
“How can I go and see her? We live in Lagos now.”
“And so? Don’t you know your way to Ibadan? You’re not a kid, Dad and Mum don’t have to know you’re going there.”
“What if she doesn’t want to see me?”
“Let her tell you that, don’t assume for her.”
He sighed. “To what end Remi? I mean things are already so bad between us…!”
“Don’t you want to know if she had the baby?”
He snickered. “There’s no way she could have had that baby.”
“I’m sorry…” she shook her head in confusion. “Why do you think so?”
“How could she have given up her life…?”
“How is it possible that you’re thinking this way? Why’re you talking as if you don’t know Jumoke?”
“Remi there’s no point reopening old wounds!”
“And who says it’s an old wound?”
“She may have moved on Remi! I don’t want to go and upset her life.”
“Can you upset it any more than you have?” she stood up and looked earnestly at him. “Do the right thing Lanre! Show up and take responsibility.”
“Remi, it’s easier said than done.”
“I’m sure it was easier for you to sleep with her but now that you have to take responsibility, it’s suddenly very difficult.”
“Don’t speak to me that way!” he warned.
“Or what? You persuaded me to lure my friend to you and then you wrecked her life. I will say whatever I want…”
Lanre slapped her cheek hard.
“No, you will not speak to me however you like. I’m your older brother and you will respect me.”
“What’s going on?” Gbemi asked coming in with three bottles of malt. She noticed her sister holding her face and looked at Lanre.
“Lanre? What did you do?” she asked putting down the bottles.
“You’re a coward and I’m ashamed of you!” Remi said tears streaming down her face.
“Lanre what did you do?” Gbemi asked again, utterly confused.
“I didn’t mean to…” Feeling overwhelmed with guilt and anger, Lanre walked out of the room.
Remi looked at the picture of Jumoke again and stared at the ceiling. It had been more than ten years but she couldn’t forget the girl or the circumstances that had torn them apart. The guilt of her part in Jumoke’s pregnancy still hung on her mind. The picture in her hand had been taken on her sixteenth birthday, the first day Jumoke and Lanre had really talked. Who could have known that that day would lead up to an unwanted pregnancy? She let the picture fall to the bed and looked out of the window.
“Maybe I should go and look for her.” she thought.
But what if Jumoke and her parents were no longer living at the same house? It was very likely, it had been twelve years and she was certain that they would no longer live in the same place. But it was worth at least trying, it was possible to encounter someone who knew where they presently lived.
An image of the paper circle on Jumoke’s bedroom wall floated into her mind. Jumoke had wanted to see the world and experience foreign cultures. What had happened to her dreams?
Hope was sleeping on her mother’s bed, Jumoke watched her breathing softly and smiled. She could never get over her daughter, in spite of the circumstances of her conception, it was hard to imagine life without the fair complexioned beautiful girl by her side. She studied her face and pursed her lips, she had her father’s eyes. The eyes that had won her trust and drawn her in. She allowed herself to think about Lanre Williams and wondered where he was. He would be thirty-one now and she was certain that he would be successful, Lanre had been intelligent. Would he still be as handsome as she remembered him? Would she ever see him again? If she did, what would she say to him?
Her thoughts strayed towards Remi and her heart beat faster. Betrayer. Remi had knowingly led her to Lanre knowing he had ill intentions towards her. She had trusted her and allowed Lanre into her life, believing that her friend had led her to a safe situation.
But she didn’t sleep with Lanre on your behalf, did she?
Yes, it had been her own actions that had ensured she got pregnant but why had Remi not supported her when she got pregnant?
She called you, several times.
Still she hadn’t found a way to let her know that her family was fleeing, or to give her a number she could call. As far as she was concerned, her efforts hadn’t been enough.
Hope stirred and opened her eyes.
“Mum… are you okay? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Jumoke sat upright and exhaled. “Don’t mind me dear, I was thinking about something.”
“Stop thinking about it if it makes you so sad.”
Jumoke smiled and stretched. “Scoot over.”
Getting into bed and stretching some more she told herself to forget the Williams and the past. Hope was a priceless treasure and she was grateful for her.
“Mum?” Hope called, snuggling up to her.
“Yeah…” Jumoke yawned, allowing herself to give in to her sleepiness.
“Do you think I’m old enough to know about my Dad yet?” the girl asked innocently.
The sleep cleared from Jumoke’s eyes. “Where’s this coming from?”
Mother and daughter stared at one another.
“I just want to know mum.”
Jumoke exhaled slowly. “I’m not ready to talk about it… please Hope…”
The girl snuggled closer to her mother.
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