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Hope was reading a children’s novel when her mother knocked on her bedroom door.
“Hey, can I talk to you?”
“Yes…” she replied, setting aside her book.
Jumoke sat on her bed and looked at her. The girl looked away feeling self-conscious.
“Come and sit by me.”
Hope did as instructed.
“You’re very dear to me, do you know that?”
The girl nodded.
“I don’t want us to fight anymore, it’s pointless. But I want you to know something. I have been single all my life, except… except the brief affair I had with your father. It is time for me to move on, and I want to do this with Derick. I need you to understand this, can you try to understand this?”
Hope sighed. “I know you need to move on mum, but why can’t you do it with my Dad? We can be a real family. Don’t you want this?”
“Of course I want this! But things between your father and I are more complicated than you can imagine. You’ll understand when you’re older. Why don’t you like Derick anymore? You’re the one who wanted me to give him a chance? What suddenly happened?”
“If you weren’t dating Mr Derick you would consider my Dad…”
“I would not, I would say exactly what I’m saying to you now.” She adjusted herself and touched her daughter’s arm.
“So if I understand what you’re saying, you don’t like Derick because you think he’s preventing me from being with your Dad.”
Hope nodded, pouting her lips.
“Why can’t you forgive him?”
Jumoke sighed. “Your father couldn’t explain to you the reason why he wasn’t with us all these years could he? Shouldn’t that tell you something…?”
“He made a mistake, he said he was afraid…”
“He made a mistake mum, why can’t you just forgive him?”
Jumoke sighed and pulled her knees to her chest. She needed to tell Hope all that had happened but she didn’t want to, what if the girl didn’t understand?
“It’s not that easy Hope…”
“It is mum, just forgive!”
“He left us Hope, we never even talked about you! He left me to do whatever I wanted with you, I could have aborted you, he didn’t care! And don’t think he sought us out, fate just brought us together to work on a project. If not for that project, you wouldn’t know him now…”
“But he came back to us! He has realized his mistake…”
“Hope baby, you don’t know that…” Jumoke said wearily.
“I spoke to him every day, he was sincere, all he wants is to get to know me better! He’s always asking me how I’m doing, he sometimes even helps me with my math assignment…”
Jumoke shook her head sadly. ”Things are never as they seem sweetheart…”
“So you can’t give him a chance?”
“I love Derick, I love him so much and I know he loves me, and you too. I’m not with him so he can take your father’s place, but I know he will take good care of you. He’ll love you as his own daughter.”
“Your mind is made up…” Hope shook her head sadly.
“Yes sweetheart.” She replied stroking her hairline, Hope leaned away from her. “Does that mean you don’t want us to be friends? Don’t you miss us?”
Hope looked at her. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too. Why don’t we leave all this man talk and just be friends? Think you can do that?”
“Can I get a hug?”
Hope hugged her mother, both wishing that they could go back to the way they used to be, before any of the men.
“I’m sorry I went behind your back mum, I hope you can trust me again.”
“You’ll earn it back.” Jumoke replied, stroking her back.
“I missed your smell.” Hope said, holding her tightly.
Jumoke smiled gratefully, all was well again.
“Does this mean that I can’t talk to him anymore?” Hope asked.
Jumoke had thought about this. “You can, but you can’t see him often.”
Hope nodded, it was better than nothing.
Lanre was excited about seeing Hope again, he had pumped his fist in the air when he got Jumoke’s message. He walked into the restaurant, the venue for their previous meeting, and saw Hope chatting excitedly with Jumoke. His breath caught in his chest when he saw the latter, the woman seemed even more beautiful than the last time he had seen her. She was smiling and looking at Hope adoringly, it was obvious how much she loved her.
Hope ran to him and held on tightly to him. Jumoke smiled slightly, she was tense.
“Hi Jumoke…” Lanre said, staring at her pink lips.
Jumoke noticed it and the subtle message he was passing. “Hi Lanre.”
“I want some ice cream.” Hope said excitedly.
Lanre held out some money to her and Jumoke looked at them in confusion, but she saw that Hope wasn’t bothered. It was the plan, the adults were to be left alone to talk.
“Hi.” Lanre said.
“You said that two minutes ago. Skip to what you really want to say, tell me what you and Hope have agreed upon.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lanre said with feigned innocence.
“Of course.” she replied rolling her eyes and bringing out her phone from her small purse.
“You look beautiful.”
“Thank you.” she replied, refusing to let his words get to her. It was his specialty.
“Can we be civil for our daughter’s sake?”
“We are civil.”
“You’re snapping answers at me…”
“What do you want from me Lanre?”
“You know what I want?”
“Okay, I’ll spell it out again. I want another chance, I’m begging for another chance…”
“So I can be your what? Side chick? You left your pregnant fiancée at home to come and tell me that you want another chance? Lanre have you not changed at all?”
“Who told you I have a pregnant fiancée?” he asked angrily.
“You thought I wouldn’t find out, that I’d just fall back in love with you only for you to ditch me. Some things never change, just don’t mess with my child’s heart, I beg you.”
“What did you think Jumoke, that I wouldn’t have a life? Of course I moved on! I felt bad but I moved on! But now I know I have a family, you can’t expect me to just pass up on a chance with my daughter and my… her mother.”
“And what about the pregnant lady who is looking forward to marrying you? You didn’t think about her did you?”
“I’m trying to do the right thing here Jumoke.”
“You’ve got it all wrong, the right thing is for you to be good to Hope and also go ahead with your fiancée….”
“Even if I’m in love with the mother of my child? Is it really fair for me to marry her even though I love you?”
“You just realized this love when? When we bumped into each other at Wilpac months ago…?”
“I’ve always loved you Jumoke, I’ve never stopped loving you!”
“And this love has been so strong that you didn’t bother to look for your daughter and I for twelve years?”
“Where could I have searched?”
“I don’t know, but that’s not important is it? Fate brought us right to your doorstep.” Jumoke sighed. “Lanre please don’t lead Hope on, please move on with your life. I’m seeing someone and I love him. It’s not going to change…”
“Does he make you feel the way I make you feel? Look at me and swear that when he kisses you, he makes you feel tingles down your spine, tell me that when you see him, your heart beats the way it does when you see me…”
“No it doesn’t.” Jumoke replied looking away from him, she was forcing her mind to defend itself against his penetrating words.
“It doesn’t, but you can never make me feel the way he makes me feel in a million years. I really do love him Lanre, it’s not going to change. We were over twelve years ago.”
Just then Hope returned. “Am I interrupting something?” she asked excitedly.
“Not at all darling.” Jumoke replied, reaching for the chocolate and banana ice-cream.
Lanre was in a foul mood. He hadn’t expected Jumoke to be as firm as she had been.
What if she has changed? He wondered.
“Hi Lanre.” Toyin said, sitting up.
“Thought you were asleep.” He replied with slight irritation.
“I was waiting up for you. I made you dinner, should I serve you some?”
“No thanks. Not hungry.”
“Okay…” Toyin was unhappy, but he decided not to make an issue out of it. “I missed you. I thought you would be home by 5.”
“I was out with my guys,” he replied with his back to her, taking his clothes off.
“But you knew I was coming now… I’ve missed you…” she said gently.
Lanre wasn’t in the mood for this.
“I’m here now aren’t I?” he snapped.
Toyin’s lips parted in surprise, what had warranted such a response? Toyin had had enough, she held her hands in her face and sighed.
“I’m trying Lanre, I’m really trying to love you in spite of how nasty you’re being to me. Is there something wrong? Did I do something wrong?”
“Toyin, not tonight! I don’t want this lamentation at this time of the day, please! Keep quiet or I’ll leave the room for you.”
“I’ve given you everything, please stop treating me as if you don’t want me around!”
“I didn’t ask you to give me everything. You gave it willingly.”
Toyin gaped at him and watched him get into bed and turn out the lights. There was nothing more to be said, Lanre had told her subtly that he didn’t want her. She touched her abdomen and wondered what was going on? She had allowed herself to get pregnant because he had come back apologizing, begging for another chance. Was she to be a single mother, after being with this man for four years? She lay beside him but couldn’t sleep, she thought and cried, thought again, and cried yet again. At a quarter to four she finally slept.
At six o’clock, she woke up with severe cramps. The pain was intense and she realized that there was a warmth between her thighs. She turned on her phone and looked down at her shorts, they were bloody.
She would have lay back in bed to allow the process that had begun but the pain was debilitating. Reluctantly she woke Lanre up.
“Lanre, Lanre! I’m in pain, take me to the hospital.”