We Knew Them Part 20
Hello everyone and welcome to a new week! I hope that your weekend was restful. All you owambe people, kindly send my own copy of the meat, I don’t even want rice (recession things) just send the meat ejo! Okay, jokes apart, here’s today’s episode. Enjoy and kindly, kindly SHARE this link. Thank you!
Mrs Oludare pulled into the Benson compound and picked up the basket of food that she had prepared for the meeting. It was the monthly zonal meeting of the female members of her church and she always looked forward to it. It was a time to discuss practical issues and ask as many questions as one wished. Mrs Oludare had come to be known as a voice of reason, she always knew what to say and how to dissect dicey matters. This gave her a sense of fulfilment, she was important, her opinion was highly valued.
She adjusted her buba and reached for the doorknob when she heard Mrs Benson talking.
“I still can’t belive it. I just kept looking at her on Sunday, I said it can’t be true! How come?” Mrs Adigun said.
Someone clapped her hands. “In fact, it is the greatest shock of my life! If anybody told me that Jumoke could be pregnant out of wedlock, I would have laughed at such a person.”
“What even annoys me about this whole thing is Mrs Oludare herself. How can you advise mothers to be close to their children and your own daughter gets pregnant right under your nose? It is the height of hypocrisy!” Toke Oluronbi said.
“Ah ah Sis Toke don’t say that!” someone said.
“Let’s tell each other the truth, I was angry too! I mean I’ve told myself so many times that I’m not as good a mother as Mrs Oludare. I’ve looked up to her, I’ve confided in her, she made me believe she was perfect!” Mrs Benson said.
“Yes!” Some women chorused.
“How could she allow this kind of thing to happen to her? What kind of example would this set for other teenage girls in church?” the woman finished.
“What even annoys me the most, is that I heard that she doesn’t know who the father is.” Mrs Adigun said.
“Hmm?!” the women chorused.
“I mean, how can she not know who the father is? It means she has been sleeping around with many boys!”
“Let’s not judge her.” a frail voice said. “She couldn’t have wanted this to happen… this is a trial for her…”
“Please! Leave Christian sentiments out of this. She was simply careless! How could she not have seen the signs that she preaches to us?” Mrs Benson countered.
Mrs Oludare opened the door gently, wiped the tears that had fallen on her cheeks and dropped the food basket. Mrs Benson and the others sat in uncomfortable silence long after she was gone.
Mrs Oludare closed her bible and folded her hands on her laps. She had just read the portion about living peaceably with all men and as always, she thought of her daughter and all that she had done to her. Yet again, she asked herself what had possessed her to be so cruel to her own daughter. Why had she allowed her disappointment and resentment becloud her better judgment? The girl had grown to be successful, she was doing well on her job and taking very good care of her daughter. Having a teenage pregnancy hadn’t prevented her from having a successful life, in fact it seemed that it had only ensured that she flourished against all odds.
Time was passing by and the gulf between her and her daughter widened. She opened her bible and took out the picture of young Jumoke. It had hurt to see her dreams for her daughter crumble and endure the shame of what looked like bad parenting, but she had never really stopped loving her, she had just been too angry to show it. And now that she had gotten over it, it seemed that the damage she had done to their relationship was irreparable. Nothing however hurt Tayo Oludare more than the guilt of her part in her daughter’s mistake. She had been the one who insisted on her going to the Williams.
“Tayo, are you crying?” her husband asked, stopping in front of the bathroom with the face towel around his neck.
“No.” she answered hurriedly, wiping her face. She was unaware that she had been crying.
“What do you mean, you’re wiping your face yet you say you’re not crying?”
Mr Oludare wiped his face and got dressed, thinking about what he should say to his wife who seemed burdened. Talking to her had become unnatural, ever since Jumoke got pregnant twelve years ago. The distress of the occurrence had also affected their marriage. He had blamed her entirely for the matter and even though he had now forgiven her, his anger had built up a wall between them that neither party had been able to surmount.
“Good night.” He said finally, not able to decide on a suitable thing to say.
“Jumoke said I stopped being her mother twelve years ago. She said I’m just her father’s wife now.” She said sadly.
Mr Oludare sat upright and stared at his wife in astonishment. “She said that?”
“Yes.” She replied, her back towards him.
He sighed and walked over to her side of the bed.
“I know I’ve hurt her, but I didn’t expect her to reject me like that. What do I do Deji? Will I go to my grave with my daughter’s scorn?”
Deji sighed again and held her hand.
Lanre was distracted. Jumoke had been to his office, he had tried to put her out of his mind for so long and now she had been assigned to help his company out of its present troubles. He had never in his wildest imagination thought that they could meet like this or that they would meet again. He wondered how she was felt about him, his company and the job. Was his company at risk? Could Jumoke cause any more troubles for the company out of revenge? He was confused. Yet, the question uppermost on his mind was what happened to the pregnancy of twelve years ago. Did she terminate or keep it? He would have an eleven year old child if the latter was the case.
“An eleven year old child!” he exclaimed and continued turning in his chair.
Why did I bother to come back? He pondered on this, his life had been structured, predictable and relatively peaceful. His return to Nigeria had only brought anxiety, uncertainty and now fear. What would he do if he really had an eleven year old child? He shook his head vigorously and tried to dismiss the panic that was slowly building up in his mind.
The first thing he needed to do was to call Jumoke’s boss, confess that they had a history and express his concern about the execution of the contract.
“The thing is, your team lead and I sort of have a history…” he explained after Bode had asked what he could do for him.
Lanre was caught off-guard. “What do you mean you know?”
“She and I have talked about it and she has guaranteed me that she will do an excellent job for your company. You have nothing to fear Mr Williams.”
Lanre was still stunned. “You guys talked about me?”
“Yes it was necessary that we did…”
“Err…. What did she say about me…?”
“I can’t involve myself like this Mr Williams, it’s your personal business and I would like to stay completely out of it.”
“Okay but err… did she give you any details about….”
“Mr Williams… sorry… I really don’t want to get involved.”
“Alright, alright, thanks.”
Lanre hung up and stared out of the window.
Jumoke was at the supermarket picking out a few breakfast items. The next day was a Saturday and she was looking forward to preparing a hearty meal, sleeping and generally being as lazy as she could be. The next week promised to be hectic, she would have to deal with Remi and probably see Lanre. She pushed away thoughts of the Williams and grabbed a head of fresh lettuce, Hope loved lettuce.
“Why don’t you supplement those with ugwu leaves?” someone said behind her. It was Derick Dede.
She laughed and shook her head. “Here you are again.”
“Yeah, it’s funny how we seem to run into each other.”
“What’s “hmm”? You think this is planned?”
“You said it.”
Derick laughed. “I like you Jumoke, I really do but not enough to abandon my job and stalk you.”
She stared at him for a while, what would she do about this man who made her heart skip? She shook her head and forced herself to focus.
“So you don’t like lettuce?” She said changing the subject and tossing the vegetable into her shopping cart.
“I do, but I still love my ugwu leaves.”
“Of course, the typical African man. I’m sure you love it with pounded yam.”
“Oh yeah, and lots of fresh and stock fish.”
Jumoke shook her head. “That’s why African men have pot bellies, they eat too much of everything!”
“I disagree with that assertion!”
“Of course you do!” She replied sarcastically, reaching for a large red tomato.
Derick laughed. “I’m not going to argue with you. I will invite you to lunch at my house though. Let me cook you some of my famous vegetable soup and see if you don’t eat all the stock fish.”
Jumoke guffawed. “You’re kidding.”
“No, I’m very serious.”
She shook her head. “I can’t just come to your house and eat lunch! I don’t even know you…”
“I’m trying to change that! Feel free to bring your daughter and Gloria, the more the merrier! I’m not trying to corner you to myself.”
“Yes, hmm. So what do you say?”
“No, I don’t meet with men in strange places.” Her face had become stern.
“C’mon you’ll be with your friend and daughter! It’s a harmless dinner I promise…”
“You can’t promise me that. I don’t care if I’m with a hundred people, you men will always be men. Forever scheming!”
Derick was caught off-guard. “I’m sorry, have I given you a wrong impression? I’m a gentleman, no scheming…”
“If only that was true!” She suddenly was no longer interested in shopping anymore, she dropped the basket on the aisle and left Derick standing in front of the row of onions.
It was Monday, and time for another meeting with the Wilpac team. Jumoke sat stiffly with Funmi Oyekan who was herself tense. Who knew what drama her boss was going to perform today? Distracting herself with her presentation, she ignored Jumoke’s constant shifting and foot tapping.
Jumoke was talking to herself.
“Just stay calm, stay calm… Show them that you’re stronger, better… Don’t look weak… Don’t you dare look weak Jumoke! You can do this Jumoke… just do your job!”
Remi came in shortly with the rest of the Wilpac team and Jumoke managed herself well, remaining professional and only speaking when it was necessary. She cracked no jokes and restricted the conversation to the purpose of the meeting. It was intense, her team’s presentation had shown how many people were to be laid off, the proposed palliative measures for them and several restructures. Of course the staff of Wilpac expressed their opposition to the plan but Jumoke did her best to stick to her recommendations and the expected outcomes.
After two grueling hours of serious conversations and compromises, the meeting was over. Jumoke promptly grabbed her bag and dashed to the ladies, leaving Funmi with a flimsy explanation. There, she took deep breaths, retouched her make-up, and congratulated herself on a successful meeting. Feeling better, she then stepped out of the restroom and stood face to face with Lanre Williams.