“We have to celebrate this!” Derick said, pumping his fist in the air.
Jumoke laughed. “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Considering all I went through to achieve this.”
“I’m really proud of you!”
“Thank you! You know when Bode told me about being a partner, I didn’t think I could do it…”
“But you did!”
She laughed again. “I did!”
“So has your new ‘partner’ office been created yet?”
She laughed again. “You are so excited!”
“Yes I am! I am! More women should own businesses.”
“I agree,” she said with a smile. “So what do you want us to do?”
“I wish we could go out tonight but this is a busy week. Can we plan something for this weekend?”
“Is it going to involve The BlueCow Restaurant and Chef Lexy’s delicious chicken?”
Derick laughed. “Okay… we can work that out. I’ll call him up.”
They talked about Derick’s mother for a while and then bade each other goodbye. Jumoke smiled in anticipation of the weekend.
It was at a time like this that Hope was grateful that she had her own room. She slipped out her phone from under her pillow and swiped it.
“Hi Hope, this is Lanre.”
She smiled widely. “Hello, I thought you wouldn’t call me anymore.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I had a very long day but you can bet that I was thinking about all the time.”
Hope’s cheeks hurt from smiling widely. “So, do you have a girlfriend?”
Lanre was caught off-guard. “You’re pretty blunt!”
“Mum taught me to always speak up.”
“Of course she did.” He replied and laughed nervously.
“So, do you have a girlfriend?”
“What do you know about girlfriends?”
“I’m eleven duh! I know what boyfriends and girlfriends are.” She said with slight irritation.
“Of course you do. Wow… you sound just like your mum…”
“And you are evading my question.”
Lanre was surprised. “You are very expressive.”
“Are you trying to say I talk too much?”
Lanre laughed. “No, I didn’t say that.”
“Just answer the question please!”
Lanre had been wondering what he should say to her. “Err… kind of…”
“That means that you’re not really into her right?”
“Now you’re making me sound mean.”
“So you’re like single, right?” Hope said, refusing to be deterred from her line of questioning.
Lanre shook his head amused. “Why are you asking me this?”
“I don’t know, it’s just my mum is sort of single too…”
Lanre’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that so? Explain ‘sort of single’.”
“There’s this guy that’s hanging around her… it’s not a big deal.”
Lanre leaned back in his seat. “So are there usually guys hanging around her?”
“Not really, mum is quite strict…”
“Yeah, I know right.” He replied.
Father and daughter were quiet, each thinking about the same woman.
“Do you still like her?” Hope asked quietly.
On the other end, Toyin opened the door to Lanre’s office and found him sitting in the dark.
“Hey… what are you doing here?”
Lanre had put Hope on hold. “I’m meditating…”
“In the dark?”
“Do I need light to think?”
Toyin wasn’t entirely convinced.
“Okay… I missed you. Come back to bed, you’ve done enough thinking for one night.”
Lanre laughed. “Okay, let me just put down some of the things I have in mind, okay?”
“Okay.” Toyin said and sat down opposite him.
Lanre forced a smile and opened his laptop. He would have to find a way to explain to his intelligent daughter why he was suddenly unreachable.
It was the weekend and Derick and Jumoke were strolling out of the mall.
“Oh look at those sneakers, Hope would love those!”
“Then let’s get them for her.”
“It’s not in my budget now, I’ll probably buy them later.”
“Pay whatever you can, I’ll pay the rest.”
She laughed. “You don’t have to do that…”
“I knew you would say that. You’re so predictable!”
Jumoke looked at him with mock anger. “So you’re now an expert in mind reading abi?”
Derick laughed. “Yes o, I know my woman.”
“And who says I’m your woman?”
“You can’t look at me like that and contest that statement.”
“Look at you how?” she asked in mock irritation.
“The way you’re looking at me right now. With a sprinkling of anger, some wonder and lots, lots, of love.”
She eyed him and hissed. “You’re seeing things!”
“I am?” he asked when they got to his car.
Derick suddenly tickled her.
“Stop it! What is wrong with you?” she said laughingly.
“I love it when you laugh!”
She laughed. “And I love y… I love laughing, I love laughing too.”
“Hmmn!” Derick laughed, shook his head and opened the door for her.
“What why’re you laughing?”
“I love y… sorry, I love laughing.”
Jumoke shook her head in embarrassment, had she almost admitted to loving the man?
“Where’ve you been mum?” Hope said when Jumoke and Derick returned to her house.
“I told you I was going out, is there an emergency?”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I was lonely.” She replied with her arms folded.
“You were lonely, with Gloria in the house?” she shook her head in disapproval. “Won’t you say hello to Derick?”
“Hello.” She replied without looking in the latter’s direction.
“Hope? What was that? What is wrong with you?”
“Jumoke, let it go.” Derick said.
“Let what go? Young lady what’s gotten into you?”
“I want my Dad. I need a father figure in my life mum. Especially when you’re out with… someone.”
Jumoke was lost for words, her mouth was agape.
“I think I should leave.” Derick said, kissing Jumoke on the cheeks and leaving the house.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jumoke said as soon as Derick left.
“I need my Dad. I can’t just live here. I want a proper family and we can’t have it with that man…”
Jumoke slapped her.
“How dare you?” she yelled. “How dare you?”
Hope held her face and cried. “You slapped me! You slapped me!”
“And I will slap you again if you don’t talk with some respect! How dare you talk about Derick like that? How dare you demand a father who abandoned us for twelve years? Do you know how much I suffered to raise you all by myself?”
“He has suffered, and I have too! Must we all suffer because you won’t forgive?” she cried and ran into the house.
“What’s going on?” Gloria said coming into the sitting room. “Jumoke, what happened?”
Jumoke sat on the couch and cried, she had made a mistake allowing Lanre into their lives.
“She hit you?” Lanre said angrily.
“Yes! Come and take me away from here, Dad. I can’t live with her anymore. She’s so mean.” Hope cried, clutching her phone and weeping into her pillow.
“Just relax okay, I’ll talk to her.”
“No… come and get me.”
“Sweetheart, it’s not that simple….”
“Don’t you love me?”
“Of course I do!”
“So get me out of here!”
“You know what, I promise I‘ll do something about this. I promise, okay? Just hold on and try not to upset her anymore okay?”
“I love you okay?”
“I love you too Dad.”
Lanre hung up and sighed. What could he do about the situation?
“Hmmn…” someone said by the stairs.
“Who’s there?” He asked fearfully.
The light came on. It was Gbemi, she was smiling.
“I know you were not talking to Toyin in the dark because she’s upstairs, so who were you talking to Lanre?”
Lanre stared at her and wondered how much she had heard.