“How did this happen?” Korede said to Jumoke some minutes later when she called him. “How did he find out?”
“I don’t know Korede. It never slipped out of my mouth, I never gave any indication that I gave birth to Hope. Someone must have told him, there’s no other way he could have known.”
“So he wants to see her after all this time? What a jerk!”
“He actually said he had rights as a father!”
He was quiet for a while.
“Are you there?” She asked.
“Yes, I’m thinking about what we can do. You know what, let me give this some more thought. I’ll come over to your place by the weekend.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. No one will take her away from you.”
“Okay.” She sniffed and wiped her nose.
Remi was gathering up some of her clothes when Lanre walked into her room.
“What are you doing here?” she asked when she saw him.
“I need to talk to you.”
“About what?” she asked suspiciously.
He walked over to her and sat on her bed wearily.
“What is it?” Remi asked with some concern.
He put his head in his hands and sighed deeply. “Apparently, I have a beautiful eleven year old daughter.”
Remi dropped the clothes on the bed and walked over to him. “Oh my God! Wow…”
“I knew that it was a possibility but now that I know it’s true I’m numb. An eleven year old daughter!”
Remi sat beside him and shook her head. “Wow… How did you find out?”
“One of her colleagues…”
“Hmm…” she exhaled. “Have you talked to Jumoke?”
“And what did she say?”
“She basically told me to get lost.”
“Yeah, I would have told you the same thing.”
Lanre looked at her. “Really? You have no sympathy for me?”
“Would you have sympathy for a man who abandoned your sister with a teenage pregnancy?”
Lanre looked away and sighed again. “You know how complicated it was Remi…”
“You know why I’ve been so angry with you all these years Lanre? You’re too afraid. Too afraid to do the right thing, too afraid to stand up and be a man, too afraid to take responsibility. You’re too afraid to get rid of fear even when it will cause others pain. When will you stop being afraid?”
“I’m not afraid Remi, I wasn’t afraid. I just… what do you think would have happened if I owned up? My life would have been over! I would probably have had to get married, who know where we would both be today? It was probably best that things turned out the way they did…”
Remi shook her head in disapproval. “You’re such a coward…’
“And you are so judgmental! I was nineteen! I wasn’t ready for marriage or fatherhood!”
“Then you should have kept your pants up!”
“Haven’t you ever made a mistake before, Remi?”
“Yeah I have…” she laughed ironically. “The greatest mistake of my life was convincing my friend that taking her eyes off her focus temporality wasn’t so bad. I should have known better than to organize for the both of you to meet up at that hotel. I… I knew you guys could have sex but I ignored caution. I wanted to fulfill my fantasy of seeing the two of you together. I was selfish and I should have known better…”
A lone tear slipped down her cheeks and she wiped it away angrily.
“I have never forgiven myself for that.”
The two were quiet for a while.
“What should I do?”
“Let her be. She’s had enough trouble from this family. If she doesn’t want you near her or her daughter then that’s the price you’ll have to pay. Don’t disrupt their lives.”
“But I want to see her!”
“What if she hadn’t come to work for Wilpac?”
“Sometimes ignorance is comfort Remi. Now I know, and I can’t let it go.”
“You have to. Focus on Toyin, and forget about Jumoke if she doesn’t want you to be a part of their lives.”
“You seem distracted, are you okay?” Derick asked Jumoke the next evening.
“I’m fine, just having some work problems.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“No, not really. I just want to enjoy myself in this moment.” She replied and massaged her foot.
“Need some help with that?”
Jumoke stilled and wondered what to make of his request. Was he flirting with her or innocently asking to be of help?
“Did I say something wrong?” He asked confused, seeing her unexpected reaction.
Jumoke smiled. “No.” she observed him for a while. “No thanks.”
“Okay. I have this series I just downloaded today, should we watch that?”
She exhaled. “No.”
“Okay… so you don’t want to talk, you don’t want a foot rub, and you don’t want to watch something. Do you want to be alone?”
She exhaled again. “No.”
“Okay… Help me out here Jumoke, what should I do?”
She stared at him. “My daughter’s father wants to see her after abandoning us for twelve years.”
“Yeah.” She wrung her hands and ran her fingers in her hair. “I told him I never wanted to see him again but I know I will. I’m so tired…”
“Then let him see her.”
She looked sharply at him.
“He won’t rest until he sees her.” Derick continued. “You can decide how you want the meeting to go and even tell him he’s not welcome in her life but he won’t let you be until he sees her.”
“Did you hear what I said about him abandoning us?”
“I did Jummy, but Hope will one day ask about her father…”
“She already is…”
“Talk to her about him, let her know everything that happened. Let her see him. I know you’re angry about whatever happened to you all those years, but do you realize that you’re not thinking about Hope in all this? A child, especially a female child would always desire a relationship with her father.”
“He doesn’t even deserve to be called her father.”
“And I agree with you, completely in fact. But what do you think will happen when she finds out that you’ve sabotaged her opportunity to see her father? She will resent you and gravitate towards him. You will be the bad guy.”
Jumoke started to cry. “He doesn’t deserve it Derick! Why should I…”
“Because you love your daughter and you want the best for her.”
“What if he tries to take her away from me?”
“I don’t think he would do that. But if it happens, you’ll cross the bridge when you get to it.”
Jumoke sobbed. “He left me, just disappeared into thin air! I was humiliated, I suffered! Alone! All these years… He doesn’t deserve it!”
Derick held her and stroked her hair as she cried tears of pure anguish. She held on to him and felt safe.
Lanre was glad that he had spoken to Remi, they hadn’t talked heart-to-heart like they had done the previous day. His heart felt light and he decided to take her advice. He would propose to Toyin and hope that she accepted him. The contract with Brighton Consulting had ended and he’d avoided Jumoke as much as possible, hard as it was.
As he drove towards Toyin’s house, he thought about the past and wondered again how things would have gone if he’d claimed responsibility for Jumoke’s pregnancy. Would life really have been that unbearable? Shoving thought of her aside, he knocked on Toyin’s door.
Her mother opened it.
“O ma ya e o!” she said sarcastically, saying that he’d taken long enough to do the right thing.
“I’m sorry ma, I had issues…”
“Obviously.” She eyed him. “She’s in her room, you better make things right.”
In her room, he found Toyin sleeping. She loved to sleep in on Saturdays.
“Baby…” he said stroking her hairline.
She opened her eyes and immediately frowned. “What are you doing here?”
“Welcome.” She hissed and turned over to the other side.
Lanre got into bed with her and put his arms around her.
“Please get out of my bed Lanre.”
“I’m sorry TY. I had a lot of things to resolve.”
“And obviously I was at the bottom of the pile. How comforting to know that it’s now my turn!”
Lanre chuckled softly and kissed her earlobes. “I would love nothing more than to be your husband if you’ll have me. I was foolish not to see this before, I needed some nudging from you.”
“How helpless you would be without me!”
“Is that a yes?”
“You should be on your knees with a befitting ring in your hand.”
“Why should I be on my knees when I can be by your side, whispering sweet nothings in your ear…?”
“Please!” she replied in a breathy voice.
“When I can do things that’ll make you feel tingles all the way down to your toes… Please, say yes…?”
Toyin closed her eyes and smiled.
“I think you’re making a big mistake Jumoke.”
“I have to think about Hope, Korede.”
“I’m not saying this because of Hope.”
Jumoke laughed in surprise. “You think I’m going to miraculously fall in love with him again? That would be over my dead body!”
“I don’t know about this decision Jumoke. The Williams are terrible people.”
“It’s a leap of faith Korede. This is hard for me too but I have to think of Hope.”
“What if she doesn’t like him?”
“Can I meet him first?” Hope said, hiding behind the wall.
“Hope!” Jumoke said startled. “Come here!”
Hope walked in with her head bowed.
“You know you shouldn’t be eavesdropping!”
“I’m sorry mum, I couldn’t help it…”
“There’s no such thing as that! You made the choice to eavesdrop!”
“I’m sorry mum.”
Jumoke looked away in anger.
“Do you really want to meet him?” Korede asked.
“Yes Uncle K, all my friends talk about their Dads. Please let me see him, I promise I’ll behave myself.”
Korede looked back at his sister and sighed. The girl would get her desire.