“We need to talk.” Derick said to Jumoke after they had consumed Chef Lexy’s hot barbecued chicken.
“This night? Do you intend to sleep over?” She asked warily.
“No, of course not. You know I wouldn’t even think of this. I’ll come here on Saturday, spend the day with you guys.”
“I’d love that, very much.” Jumoke replied, grinning widely.
“Okay. How are things between you and Hope?”
Jumoke sighed. “She’s still not talking to me, but she’ll come around I guess. I don’t have much to say to her either.”
Derick pursed his lips in disapproval. “I think you should talk to her…”
“About what? She betrayed my trust, she needs to be sorry for what she’s done.”
“Okay,” Derick shrugged. “We’ll see on Saturday.”
Gbemi and her mother were seated in the latter’s room. She was weaving her hair into a bun.
“Make it a little less tight.” Mrs William said.
“So how are things at the company?”
Gbemi smiled. “Things are really looking up. We’re doing some rebranding and changing our recipes. I’m glad about what we’ll be pushing into the market.”
Mrs Williams smiled. “I’m happy to hear this. I knew you children could do it. Your father is less stressed, he is enjoying the fruit of his labors.”
Gbemi smiled. “If only Lanre could get his act together and give Toyin some peace of mind, his peace would even be greater.”
Mrs Williams pulled away and looked at her. “What is he doing to her?”
Gbemi sighed. “She says he feels distant, I don’t know it’s like he’s not showing interest in her or something.”
“Ah ah?” Mrs Williams wondered. “Is he seeing someone else?”
“I won’t be surprised,” She replied sourly. “Lanre can be quite unfocused.”
“Seeing someone else and his wife is pregnant? After all these years? Why does your brother do things like this? Hasn’t that girl stuck with him all these years?”
“Mummy, I don’t know o!”
“I’ll talk to him.” Mrs Williams concluded.
“What is this I hear about you and Toyin?” Mrs Williams asked Lanre later that day. “I heard you’re being distant…”
“You heard? From where? From whom?”
“That’s not important. What’s important is that you’re stressing that poor girl with whatever is going on with you. She’s carrying a baby, your baby. She shouldn’t be worried about anything!”
“Yes mum.” Lanre acquiesced, not willing to argue with her.
Mrs Williams stared intensely at her son. “Who is distracting you?”
“You’re lying, I can see that you’re lying.”
“Whatever mum…” Lanre replied, rising from the chair.
“So now you want to walk out on me?”
“Sit down! I’m still talking to you!”
Reluctantly, he obeyed.
“Who is distracting you?” she asked again, looking at him with the same intensity.
“Mum, will you stop trying to read my mind?” he said uncomfortably.
“It’s not that girl is it?”
“The Oludare girl… what’s her name again? Jumoke?”
Lanre looked away from her.
“There’s nothing to worry about mum…”
“Oh my God, she’s the one distracting you! You’re allowing that low-life…”
“She’s not a low-life mum! She’s much better that you could have ever imagined! She’s prettier than my sisters, she looks very good, very, very good and I know she still cares about me. We can finally do the right thing after all these years, this is our second chance…!”
“Your second chance for what? What right thing are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the chance to be together with her. I love her…”
“And Toyin, the woman who’s carrying your baby? What about her?”
Lanre shook his head as if it could take away the sound of her name. “She’ll understand…”
“Understand what? That she’s going to be dumped because of a teenage crush? Olanrewaju, listen very clearly to me. That girl has been with you for years, she has taken care of you and loved you faithfully. She’s from a good family, I know her mother, and her mother knows me. I like her and she likes me. What else are you looking for? You better focus! Don’t disgrace this family the way you did twelve years ago! See how we had to relocate to Lagos and restructure our lives because you couldn’t keep your pants up! I’m warning you, don’t do anything that will jeopardize your father’s health. If you disturb my peace, I will disturb your peace and you know me. Do you hear me?”
“Yes ma. Can I go now?”
Mrs Williams eyed him and left the room instead, wondering why her oldest child was so unfocused.
Derick and Jumoke were seated on the sofa in her house. Hope and Gloria had gone out to the salon down their street.
“So, what did you want to talk about? I’ve been anxious!” she said excitedly.
Derick sat up and stared at his hands. “I need to tell you something.”
“O…kay…” Jumoke said curiously, watching how uncomfortable he was. “What’s going on Derick? Are you relocating or something?”
He laughed. “No, no, I’m not. I… I need to… you said something that I need to address.”
“Okay?” Jumoke sat up herself, now more curious than ever.
“You said I’m not a parent. The truth is, I am.”
Jumoke gasped and laughed nervously. “What do you mean?”
“I was married.”
“What?!” She said in utter shock. “You were married? So you’re divorced, separated…?”
“Widowed…?” Jumoke’s rising anger deflated instantly.
“She, they… died in the Dana plane crash, three years ago…”
Derick bowed his head. He never discussed his late wife Mfon and their son Derick Jr, it wasn’t something he had fully dealt with. He’d simply forced the tragedy to the recesses of his mind until he met Jumoke. He tried hard to control his emotions then continued his narration.
“I was working here in Lagos on an important project, and she’d been complaining about how she missed me. I hadn’t been home in two months… “Since you won’t come to me, I’ll come to you,” that’s what she said. “Take a flight, so it’ll be faster…” that’s what I told her… she got on that plane with our son and that was the end.”
Derick’s eyes were filled with tears of pain, regret filled his heart and he wished once again to trade places with his wife and son.
“I should have just gone home…” he broke down crying, Jumoke herself was moved to tears. She held his hand reassuringly, knowing that he didn’t need to be cuddled.
“Derick I’m so sorry.”
Derick cried gut-wrenching tears, what hurt him the most about his family’s death was the fact that he hadn’t valued the time he had had with them. Derick Jr was less than two years old, and he didn’t even know his favorite meal. Mfon had nagged him about his workaholic behaviour several times, and he hadn’t listened until it was too late. Derick was more regretful than sad.
“I’m so sorry.”
He wiped his tears, and faced her.
“I didn’t tell you that so you could feel bad for me, I’ve made my mistake and I will always regret it. I’m telling you because you’re doing the same thing, first with your mother and now your daughter. Have you even realized that things are slowly degenerating between you two just like it did between you and your mother?”
Jumoke would have given him a tart reply, but she was still shocked from Derick’s revelation.
“Your daughter lost your trust, and so did you lose your mother’s trust…”
“Derick you’re not putting yourself in my shoes.”
“I am, I know you feel betrayed by what Hope did. Put yourself in your mother’s shoes and imagine how you would feel, if Hope got pregnant as a teenager.”
To that Jumoke said nothing, she looked away.
“You wanted love when you made a mistake, Hope did too. Forgive her and get back together, be the friends you used to be. And forgive your mum, I’m very sure she’s sorry. You never know what tomorrow holds, make the most of today while it is.”
Jumoke stared at the floor, knowing he was right.
Mrs Oludare was chopping onions when Jumoke came into the kitchen.
“Good afternoon ma.”
The mother turned, surprised that her daughter had come to see her in the kitchen. “Welcome. How was your journey?”
“Stressful, there was traffic.”
Mrs Oludare frowned slightly, was Jumoke making small talk?
“Well, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me too.” she replied, fiddling with her hands.
Mrs Oludare looked at her daughter uncertainly.
“I brought you some plantains.” Jumoke pointed at the bag at her feet. “They’re very big so you can eat them for a while.”
Mrs Oludare couldn’t remember the last time Jumoke had bought her something. She dropped the knife slowly and faced her daughter fully. Something was going on here.
“Thank you…” she said.
“You’re welcome ma.” Jumoke replied, not able to look her in the eyes. She didn’t know what else to say.
Mrs Oludare saw her daughter’s discomfort and her heart broke. They used to be so close, until she had allowed her anger and bitterness to destroy the bond they’d shared.
“You look beautiful,” she said, deciding to speak from her heart.
“You’ve made me proud… in spite of everything. I tried to break you but you just became stronger.” She moved closer to her and took her hands. Jumoke tensed up, they hadn’t touched each other in years.
“I love you my daughter.” Mrs Oludare said in a voice laden with emotion.
Jumoke looked at her. “I needed you…” she replied in a shaky voice.
“I know…” Mrs Oludare said, crying slowly. “But I was too angry to see that, foolish anger that has robbed us of good years! I am very sorry, for not being there, for not telling you it would be alright, for not cheering you on…”
Jumoke wept, she had longed to hear those words for so long. “It’s okay mum…”
“Can you forgive me?”
“I already have…”
Mr Oludare watched his wife and daughter hold each other in a warm embrace from the door and wept silently. He had prayed for reconciliation for so long.