“You’re getting married.” Remi said to Toyin when she told her the next morning. “Wow… congratulations. So… he proposed to you last night?”
“It’s funny actually, I was the one who sort of proposed. I’d been thinking recently that maybe if we were married and I’m here for him all the time, he won’t be so burdened. So I said to him last night, “let’s get married” and he said “okay”! I couldn’t believe it! I could hardly sleep throughout the night!”
“Wow!” Remi said more out of astonishment than joy. “I don’t even know what to say…”
“We’re finally going to be sisters…” Toyin said excitedly and hugged her.
Remi hugged her back but her mind was full of anxiety. What was Lanre thinking?
Lanre’s hands were twitching, like they did when he was nervous.
“What have I gotten myself into?” he thought.
All Toyin could talk about this morning was the wedding. Should they have a destination wedding or not? Should she hire her own photographer friend or someone her friend had recommended? How many people should come for the wedding? When did he think he’d have the time to start lessons for their wedding dance? Which wedding planner should they use? Should they have separate aso-ebis for their families? Where had he been thinking of for their honeymoon?
“Let’s just calm down okay? There’s no need to rush things. We only got engaged last night!” He’d said.
“Yes, but we have to plan. Before you know it, the wedding day would be here!”
She gasped and held on to his hand. “We haven’t even decided on the wedding date! When do you think we should get married?”
Lanre had almost run out of the room then. “Babe, right now I have work on my mind. Yom remember what I told you about Nnamdi? I have to sort it out on time.”
She had sagged her shoulders then. “Do you not want to get married?”
“No! That’s not what I’m saying!”
“I get it Lanre, after all I was the one who proposed.”
“C’mon TY, you know that has nothing to do with this…”
No, it’s okay. I get it Lanre, you’re not the one who proposed, so you definitely don’t have a date in mind…”
Lanre had sighed. “TY, please. I can’t do this right now. I can’t argue with you this early in the day.”
Toyin had left him then, and he had known that she wouldn’t be coming back to his place later that night. He leaned back in his chair and stared blankly at his computer.
I have to fire Nnamdi, he thought yet again as his thoughts strayed towards a certain fair, shapely woman with bright pink lips.
Derick stared at Jumoke as she finished her grilled chicken.
“Am I eating noisily?” she asked self-consciously.
“No, not at all.” He laughed. “You’re just lovely to behold.”
Jumoke rolled her eyes and wiped her mouth. “That Chef Lexy is a blessing to this generation I tell you! So much deliciousness in one piece of chicken!”
“How long have you known him? You two seem close.”
Derick smiled. “Years, we’ve become more like brothers. He’s been with me through the hardest times of my life.”
“Did you meet him at the restaurant?”
“No, not at all. We met through a mutual friend…” Derick shook his head. “Time flies.” He said almost in a whisper.
Jumoke was about to ask him what he’d meant by that when Hope came into the sitting room with a book.
“Mum, I have to fill this form about…” she stopped when she remembered that Derick was sitting by her side.
Hope handed her the form and pointed somewhere on it. She was to fill in her father’s local government area.
“Write Ibadan North.”
“But that’s the same as…”
“Write that!” Jumoke snapped.
Hope retuned into the house without another word.
“Do you want to talk about hat?”
“No,” she said and sighed. “What were we talking about?”
“Chef Lexy and his delicious chicken.”
Jumoke sighed again, unable to get her daughter out of her mind. “I shouldn’t have snapped at her.”
“Sure you don’t want to talk about it?”
Jumoke hesitated for a while. “She needed to fill in her father’s local government area.”
They hadn’t talked about Hope’s father and his absence or presence in her life.
“We never talked about it. We didn’t know each other for that long… I couldn’t possibly tell her that I didn’t know it. What would she think of me?”
“She might feel disappointed but she will remember how good a mother you’ve been to her. What’s a local government area when you have an overdose of love?”
“You’re a good mother. Focus on that.”
She looked at him gratefully. “You’re not going to ask me about her father?”
“I am curious, I won’t lie. But I trust that you’ll tell me when you’re ready.” He replied and squeezed her hand.
She stared at him for a while and then looked away.
“I should go, it’s late.” He said reluctantly.
At the door he held both her hands, wanting to say something but not finding the strength to. “Goodnight Jumoke.”
“Goodnight…” she replied, wondering what he had wanted to say.
Lanre had decided to follow his mother’s advice. He would find out the truth about Jumoke through whatever means necessary. Instead of thinking about his proposal or Nnamdi’s treachery, he decided that he would sort out his concern over what had happened to Jumoke’s pregnancy several years ago.
He searched Facebook and LinkedIn for any of their mutual friends, and found one Dupe Bajowa who used to be his classmate in secondary school. She had kept in touch with him over the years and he immediately called her up and asked her out to dinner. Dupe had always had a crush on him, she agreed. It was possible that he had come to his senses and realized that she was the one for him after all.
As he walked towards Dupe, she observed how much he had changed. He was even more attractive than his profile picture. They hugged and talked excitedly about old times. Dupe thought that he seemed genuinely interested in her. He was looking her in the eyes, and touching her hand every now and then. Why would he do so if he wasn’t interested in her?
Lanre hid his frustration with Dupe as well as he could, she wouldn’t stop talking about old times and how much she wished that they were better friends.
”So you’re not married?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.
“Maybe we should just marry each other if we’re not married by forty!” she said and laughed self-consciously.
“But I’m sure you have girls flocking around you, so that’s unlikely to happen.” She replied with false cheer.
Lanre saw his opportunity. “I don’t o. In fact, there’s this girl I’ve been trying hard to talk to. You might even know her, she’s also an HR professional. Her name is Jumoke Oludare.”
Dupe dropped her fork. “Jumoke Oludare? Fair? Short?”
“Yeah that’s her… ”
“What do you see in that snub?”
“Really, and she’s pretty down-to-earth with people…”
“You don’t know her. You better park well, she’s not the kind of girl you’re looking for.”
“She’s a single mum.”
Lanre had been about to drink from his glass, he now held it firmly to still his trembling hand. “What?” he asked in a breathy voice.
“Yes, she’s a single mother. I think she even had a teenage pregnancy because her daughter is more than ten years old. Maybe that’s why she’s so uptight, she was probably raped or something.”
“She has a daughter…?” Lanre managed to say.
“Yes, that girl is her everything. Fine girl like that. Anyway, please forget about her and look at truly single girls like us.”
Lanre could feel his palms get clammy. He picked up his phone, pretended to have an emergency and left Dupe staring at him in bewilderment.
“He says his name is Lanre Williams and you better get down here now…” The receptionist said nervously to Jumoke via the telephone the next morning, staring at Lanre surreptitiously.
Angrily, Jumoke walked into the conference room a few minutes later.
“I told you not to come here Lanre. How dare you summon me in my ….?”
“Sit down Jumoke.” Lanre replied quietly, tapping the table with trembling hands.
“I’m not sitting down, I don’t have an appointment with you so you better leave.”
“What’s her name?”
“Whose name?” she replied irritably.
“Yo… our daughter.”
Anger flowed out of Jumoke and replaced itself with fear. “What did you say?”
“What’s our daughter’s name? I heard that she’s beautiful.”
“Who told you…?”
“It doesn’t matter.” He rubbed his eyes, he’d barely gotten any sleep the night before. “You kept it Jumoke! And all this time I didn’t know.”
“What do you want Lanre? Why exactly are you here?” she asked holding the chair beside her for support.
“I want to see her.”
“No.” Her anger was back.
“She’s my daughter.”
“She’s not. She doesn’t even bear your name…”
“Please Jumoke, I have a right to see her.”
“Right?!” Her body trembled with fury. “How dare you come here and claim any right when you abandoned us twelve years ago!”
“I was a teenager Jumoke, I didn’t know what I was doing!”
“You knew enough to make a baby. You were old enough to do the right thing but you chose to run.”
“And I said I’m sorry.”
“Our contract with Wilpac ends on Friday. I don’t ever want to see you again Lanre. You have no daughter.”
Jumoke stormed out of the conference room, ran into the nearest toilet and cried bitterly.
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