Jumoke watched the exchange between father and daughter and wiped her own tears. Lanre’s shoulders shook as he cried.
“It’s okay…” Hope said, trying to contain her own tears.
He wiped his face and looked up at his daughter. “I’m very happy to see you.”
“Me too.” Hope replied full of emotion.
Lanre wiped her tears and stared at her. “Has anybody told you that you’re very beautiful?”
“Mum tells me all the time!” she grinned.
Lanre looked at Jumoke. ”Your mum has done such a good job taking care of you.”
She stared expressionlessly at him, refusing to let his words get to her. Hope looked at Jumoke and her smile faded, Jumoke didn’t look particularly pleased. She looked back at her father.
“What’s your name sir?”
Lanre gasped. “Okay first of all, please stop calling me ‘sir’. My name is Lanre Williams… I like your name.”
“How come you know my name?” She asked shyly.
“I asked your mum.”
“Mum won’t tell me yours…”
“I’m sure she had a good reason. Why don’t we sit down?” Lanre said with a sad smile.
“Why did you leave us?” Hope asked as soon as they were seated.
Lanre had known that this question would come up and he had searched his mind for the appropriate answer. How could he explain his actions?
“I made a mistake… there’s no excuse for my behavior…”
“I’m not asking you for an excuse. I want to know why! Was mum not pretty enough?”
Lanre bowed his head and sighed, what could he say? “I made a mistake that I will always regret…”
“You can’t tell me why you left?” Hope said unbelievingly.
“I was afraid!” He blurted. “I was young and I had my life planned out…”
“But mum had a life to live too… Why didn’t you stay with her?”
Lanre rubbed his eyes, this meeting was more difficult than he had imagined it would be. “I was young Hope…”
Just then, Mr Oludare and Korede returned into the sitting room. “It’s time for you to leave.”
Lanre looked at his daughter, she didn’t want the meeting to end and neither did he. Yet, he was relieved to be saved from answering questions he had no answer to.
“I brought some things for her…” he said.
“We don’t want anything from you.” Jumoke said sternly, feeling annoyed by his inability to answer Hope’s questions.
Lanre nodded, he had expected that Jumoke would reject his gifts.
“Thank you for letting me see her sir.” He said rising, Hope rose up with him.
Mr Oludare merely glared at him.
“It was a pleasure to meet you.” he said to Hope.
“When will I see you again?” she asked intently.
“Err…” He looked at the adults, their faces were hard. “I’ll call your mum…”
Lanre bade his daughter and the Oludares goodbye and drove out of the compound feeling utterly drained.
Jumoke was sending out an email when her phone vibrated. She picked it up and looked at it. It was a text from Lanre.
Thank you for letting me see Hope.
She dropped her phone, intending to continue with her work when she decided to respond.
You’re welcome, she typed and resumed her activity. A few seconds later, her phone rang. It was Lanre.
She shook her head, it had been a mistake to respond to his text message. She let it ring through, intending to ignore it. He called right back.
“Hello!” She snapped.
She was beginning to get very uncomfortable hearing him call her name. It stirred things in her that she didn’t want stirred, and brought back unwelcome memories.
“What do you want Lanre?”
“I’m just calling to say thank you…”
“You already typed that in your text…”
“I’m not just talking about seeing her. She looks very well taken care of… you’ve done a very good job. Thank you…”
“You’re welcome.” She said, anxious to end the call and regain control of her emotions. “Please don’t call me for the flimsiest reasons.”
“I’m being grateful Ju…”
“And I said you’re welcome! Send a text if you have anything important to say.”
“Have I done something wrong?” he asked confused.
“Look I’m busy, I don’t have time to argue with you…”
“Are we arguing? I’m just calling to…”
“All I’m saying is, send a text next time. Don’t call me!”
Before he could respond to her outburst, she hung up and continued her work.
Hope had been in a light mood since she saw her father. All she wanted to talk about was her father, how handsome he was and how warm he had been. Jumoke smiled politely and listened to her go on and on about him until she decided that she could no longer take it.
“Can you stop talking about him so often?” she said irritably as they prepared dinner one evening.
“Why don’t you want me to talk about him, he’s a nice man?” the girl cried.
“And how do you know this?”
“He was nice to me, he’s not a bad person.”
“Oh, so you suddenly know him.”
“He’s nice mum, and he’s my Dad. You can’t tell me not to talk about him.”
Jumoke dropped the plantain she had been dicing. “What did you just say to me?”
Hope was immediately apologetic. “I’m sorry mum, I shouldn’t have said that…”
“It should never have crossed your mind! Are you going to make me regret allowing you to see your Dad?”
“No Mum!” the girl replied fearfully, dreading what her mother could do to sabotage her relationship with her father. “I’m very sorry.”
Jumoke eyed her. “Finish that up.” she said, pointing back at the plantains and leaving the kitchen.
I have exciting news about January 2017. Watch this space!
Lanre was restless, he couldn’t sleep, eat or have a conversation without getting distracted. He wanted to see his daughter again and again. They had parted ways abruptly, and he worried that he might have left her with a poor impression of him. He hadn’t explained why he had abandoned her.
But Hope wasn’t the only one on his mind, he also wondered about Jumoke. How had she managed? He noticed that Hope spoke with a British accent, they’d obviously been abroad for a while. What had made them return? Even though when they were teenagers, Jumoke had expressed doubts about her ability to study abroad, she had done just that. What changed? Lanre wanted to know everything that had happened to them, he wanted to reconcile with Jumoke.
“What’s wrong with you?” Toyin asked him the next weekend as he drank his coffee and stared into space, thinking about Hope.
“Nothing!” he said, slightly startled.
“Something’s wrong. You’ve been this way ever since you went for your friend’s wedding last weekend.”
Lanre gave a short laugh. “I’m fine, just turning some things over in my mind. I’m making plans for the coming year.”
Toyin watched him drum his fingers on the mug, stare at it and sigh. She was convinced that there was something he wasn’t saying.
“You’re not being truthful with me.” she said watching him guardedly.
“TY, I’ve told you the truth. What else do you want me to say?”
“I can tell that you’re hiding something from me.”
Lanre pulled his chair backward and made to leave the table.
“There you go! Running away again from a conversation you don’t want to have.”
“I’m not running away, I’m just avoiding an early morning argument.”
“Just tell me the truth!”
Lanre huffed and got up from the table.
“Don’t walk out on me!” she yelled.
“Stop nagging me! I don’t have to tell you everything on my mind!”
“So you were lying?” she said triumphantly.
Lanre began to walk away and she rose up sharply from the table. “Are you seeing someone else Lanre?”
He turned back slowly and looked at her. “Toyin, now you’re taking this out of proportion…”
“Answer my question!”
“I’m not. I swear it.”
“So why are you distracted, what is going on with you?”
“I just told you what’s on my mind!” he yelled. “I really, really hate it when you nag me. I find it unbearable and unattractive and I want to be as far away from you as possible. Don’t nag me…”
“I’m not nagging you Lanre, I’m only asking you to be straight with me…”
“I am being straight with you. I’m not seeing someone else!”
Toyin wasn’t convinced, she sat down and played with her toast.
“We’ve been together for four years Lanre, don’t mess with me.”
“I’m not.” He scratched his head and sighed. “Come here.”
Toyin went over to him and allowed him to hold her in a reassuring embrace.
Derick was waiting for Jumoke to get dressed when Hope came out to meet him in the sitting room.
“Hello Mr Derick.” she greeted.
“Hi. How are you doing?”
She sat on the chair adjacent to him and studied him. This man wasn’t as handsome as her own father, he wasn’t as tall either. Yes, he was kind but she was sure that her father had a kinder heart. Derick was too unassuming, he sat with his hands folded and stared quietly at the TV. What did her mother see in him? What had she seen in him? The more she looked at him, the more she realized that he was a threat to a dream that had slowly begun to form in her mind. One that involved her, her mother and her handsome father.
As far as Hope was concerned, life had presented them with another chance to be a true family, and the only thing that could hinder it was the man she was looking at.
“So how’s school?” he asked.
Derick frowned slightly, something didn’t quite feel right here. “So did you do well on that math test?”
“Yeah.” She replied without looking at him.
“Okay… are you okay?” he couldn’t help asking.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked with a smile, wondering what could be bothering an eleven year old so much.
“You can’t help me.”
Derick stared at her in confusion when Jumoke returned.
“Hey! I didn’t keep you waiting did I?” she asked excitedly.
“No, it’s okay.” He replied and rose to greet her. “You look lovely.”
He held her arms and kissed her softly on each cheek, lingering just a little.
“Guys please!” Hope said angrily and walked inside.
Jumoke laughed but Derick wasn’t amused.
“What’s going with her?” he asked.
“Don’t mind her. She’s just being a child!” she waved her hand dismissively and squeezed his hands.
“Take me out!”