Terdoo was tired. Her cotton t-shirt clung to her sweaty body like a second skin. She had been determined to clean the entire house until every corner sparkled, not because it was necessary but because she was restless. The need to keep herself busy gnawed at her so bad that she swept and mopped and dusted and wiped with an unhealthy obsession. Now done, the restlessness still remained.
At first she blamed her unease on the disarming presence of Jimi. It had been easier for her to like him in the silence of her heart and from a distance for the past few years but now that he was constantly around her, she was finding it hard to fight the strong chemistry that was brewing between them. She had long settled on not letting herself fall for any man, especially not when her past was still hot on her heels.
Her clothes came to a heap on the tiled floor of the bathroom she had walked into for a shower. Standing naked before the bathroom mirror, she observed that her body was bereft of healthy fat, leaving her collar bones sticking out and making her thin arms hang by her side wearily. Terdoo had always hated her body. She felt she was disproportionate. Wide hips, massive breasts and a flat stomach would have any woman or man excited but combined with a backside that hung a little low and thin arms, Terdoo felt incomplete. She had always admired Marie’s body that had everything in proportion; nothing lacking, nothing excess.
Terdoo sighed and went under the shower. She still was on edge and there was no use denying the real reason why. Something wasn’t right back home. It was time to make that one important phone call to her mother she had been putting off all morning. And if her premonition panned out true, then she would receive bad news from her. She sighed again. The issues of her life were weighing her down.
Terdoo took her time in the bathroom and when she came out, she went for her phone which was charging in the sitting room and disconnected it. The moment she turned it on, a text message came in. Just as she was about attending to it, the phone rang. She studied the caller ID. It was a strange number that got her uneasy but she took the call even so.
Terdoo’s small eyes widened and her face became a picture of shock.
There was only one person that called her that name and she had not spoken to him in six years.
“Teddy, talk to me please. It’s Liam.”
Terdoo shut her eyes. “I know it’s you. Why are you calling me? How did you get this number?”
“Teddy, at least say hi.”
“Why are you calling me, William?”
“don’t I have a right to call my son’s mother?”
“Just like that? After six years? Your son? Ha!” Terdoo rose up from the sofa she was sitting on. “He’s your son now? How about when he came into this world looking exactly like you and you said he wasn’t yours? Remember that day? The day you walked out on me and went off to marry someone else?”
“Teddy, calm down. I am so sorry. Please, please, please…”
Terdoo heard a sniff from the other end and knew her ex struggling with his emotions. It gave her no relief.
“I just want to see him. Just once, Teddy. Please?”
“William, no! You lost your chance six years ago!”
“I know… Okay, this is the truth. It’s my dad… he’s dying and he wants to see his grandson.”
Terdoo shut her eyes again and this time tears filled them.
“You think I care? After all your family put me through, especially this your same father who almost raped me while I was pregnant… you think I’d care now if he died miserably?! My life came to a standstill because of your family, Liam! I live today as a housemaid and Jeff constantly moves from place to place just to hide from you people but you won’t still leave us alone!”
“I am sorry,” William begged. “I’ve been punished enough na. Life has served me a full dose of my own wickedness and I have gulped it down…”
“I am not satisfied! Look, stay far away from me, Liam! I will never forgive you for what you did and you will never see Jeff!”
“Too late,” Liam revealed. “I know you’re in Lagos and that’s why I’m heading there right now. My flight is just about to take off. I’m with my mom and we’re coming to where you live. We’re coming to the Bahaushes. We know you’re there.”
Terdoo’s lips moved without words. She looked around her as if being watched by unseen eyes. She hung up and remained shivering. Liam called again but she stopped the call and dialed her mother instead. The old woman answered after just one ring.
“Terdoo, why you off phone na?”
“Mama, where you dey? Where Jeff?”
“Jeffery dey here with me. I don dey try call you since morning but your phone dey off.”
“Hm… those your oyinbo people come here come find me o.”
“How dem take find you na?”
“I no know, my pikin. But Iya Shile don sight dem from mai shayi side as dem dey ask for me and she come tell me. Na so I take Jeff and we go hide for her house for almost two hours. As dem come go, I no waste any time. I pack all Jeff cloth, put for inside Ghana-must-go and na so me and him enter motor come Lagos. We don dey for park for teeree good hours now. I dey try your phone since, e no dey go.”
Terdoo held a fistful of hair and bit her lip. “Mama, you for just stay for ABK na.”
“Abi you no hear wetin I just tell you? I say dem come find me for there you still dey yarn nonsense! Abeg come carry us from dis park.”
“I dey come. Abeg, no talk to anybody and hold Jeff well-well. If person touch am, shout o.”
Terdoo ended the phone call and hurried to her room where she slipped into a simple dress and a pair of slippers. She left the house and stopped a cab just outside the gates.
* * * * * * * *
“So the useless man tried to rape you in your ninth month of pregnancy?”
Terdoo nodded in answer to Alhaja Nnenna’s question. She felt a stab of pain when the memory of what she went through with William’s father replayed in her mind.
“What type of animal tries to rape a pregnant woman?” Nnenna’s face expressed disgust.
“My sister, the tin tire me o,” Terdoo’s mother replied. She was a fair-complexioned woman about Nnenna’s age but with a youthfully animated face and an easy manner. Her fifty-six year old body was slim and lacked none of the full features Terdoo possessed. There was hardly any physical trait that connected mother to daughter.
“So Terdoo, when this man’s wife entered and saw him doing what he was doing, he claimed that you tried to seduce him?”
“Did she believe him?”
“And the William boy believed them too?”
Nnenna clapped her hands in disbelief. “What type of family is that?”
“I no know o.” Terdoo’s mother exclaimed and shifted into the chair she was sitting on to make herself more comfortable. “Right from start, the boy mama no want my pikin because she no reash their level. Me I know no say oyinbo women dey do dat kain tin. But the boy love Terdoo and im fight the mama well-well dat first time. Na as dem go bring the other girl from overs, na there everytin spoil. You know say some men no dey fit hold body if their woman carry pregnance.”
“I know,” Nnenna concurred.
“Ehen. Na wetin worry the boy and daz why im mama go bring another girl for am. After dat, dem come set Terdoo up, lie dat yeye lie on top her head, come drive am commot. Dat very day dem drive am, na the day she born Jeff. Na for hotel she born am o. Only her! Nobody help am.”
“Awww.” Nnenna shook her head sadly at Terdoo.
“Na after she don born, she come go hospital. For there, she make phone call to William say ‘come see your pikin o. I don born boy for you. Come look am with your koro-koro eyes’.”
“Hin go. Sharp-sharp hin enter car, go hospital but as hin land there, see the boy, e hate am! Reject am!”
“Hin come even tell my pikin say the other girl don already get one month pregnance for him and dem go soon marry. My sister, dat kain boy na human being?”
Nnenna couldn’t speak. Tears lined her eyelids as she stared at Terdoo in sympathy.
“Dis girl wan die dat time. In short, sickness of mind don carry am go sef if nor be for the prayers wen I dey pray for her. And my God answer me! Baba Jehovah nor dey fall my hand!”
“Never!” Terdoo’s mother lifted her hands into the air and mouthed silent gratitude to God before she continued. “Four months after dat boy marry dat girl, two of dem dey go Ibadan for jus here-here and wetin come happen, my sister? Hmmm… dis life na wa! Just to enter Ibadan o, na so dem get assident. Bad one! The type wey you go know say evil pipu hand dey involve. The motor just like dat commot for road like say pesin push am. E turn, turn, turn, turn o! Come dey sommersault, sommersault, sommersault o! Before e come land upside down for ground! Pieces to nonsense!”
Nnenna put her hands to her mouth.
“I dey tell you. The wife die for the spot!”
“She die! She and her pregnance! The boy nko? Paralyze! From waist down! As we dey talk for here hin dey for wheelchair. You go see am today nau. Hin no fit waka. Hin no fit even carry one leg up. Everytin from dat waist down don go. Even hin blokos.”
“Mama…” Terdoo shook her head at her.
“Wetin? Hin no fit perform as man na. Abi I dey lie? Fine boy but dem don finish am. Only pikin wen him mama and papa get. Now no hope.”
“No other child?”
“Nobody! Only him! And daz why dem one come carry my small husband here.” Terdoo’s mother fiddled with her grandson’s curly locks as he lay fast asleep on her laps. “Thunder fire dem! Where dem dey wen Terdoo no go school again because she dey hustle to find money to take care of the pikin? Dem buy the boy even pampas or feeding bottle? Hin school nko? Dem don ever pay the boy school fees? Ah, Alhaja! God go bless you well-well for all the good-good tin wen you don do for my pikin and for dis boy. If no be for you, I no know as tins for be for all of us. God bless you! Nothing bad go ever happen to you.”
“Amin.” Nnenna smiled and looked at Terdoo. “Tay, I am glad you came to me. You said they’ve been stalking you?”
“Yes. I keep changing my phone numbers and moving mama from state to state but somehow they keep finding us. They want Jeff badly. First they begged, then they offered money, then they threatened and sent police and…”
“All this was happening under my nose and you didn’t tell me? Haba, Terdoo! I told you to see me as your mother na.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Bother wetin? I no tell you say make you tell Alhaja?” Terdoo’s mother scolded. “But you no wan hear. And see, she even sabi the pipu sef.”
Nnenna smiled. “I no sabi dem like dat.” It was obvious Nnenna was bad with pidgin. She switched to plain English. “It’s Alhaji that knows them and I know when they arrive they’ll go to his house.”
“Alhaja, your phone,” Terdoo said and hurried to pick Nnenna’s phone from Kiki who sat by Nnenna’s feet, emptying the contents of her handbag.
“I have a text.” Nnenna peered into her phone like one whose eyes were impaired. As she took a moment to herself, Terdoo sat beside her mother and tried to draw in comfort from the soothing blue ambience of Nnenna’s sitting room. She massaged her neck and let out a yawn as Nnenna turned in her direction.
“The Evrus’ are here.”
Terdoo sat straight.
“Relax, dear. Everything will be fine. The text was from my mate. She said Alhaji is not in and he ordered that she send them to me. So, they are on their way here.”
Terdoo stood to her feet. “I don’t want to meet them.”
“It’s your choice and I understand how you feel but I would advise that you see them…”
“No.” Terdoo’s eyes revealed apprehension.
“Okay then, let’s do it this way. You and Sesan will leave for Jos today and go and stay with Jimi for a while.”
“For wetin na?” Sesan yelled from the dining area where he had been pretending to be engrossed in his phone. Nnenna ignored him.
“You guys will take Jeff and Kiki and stay there for a while until all this dies down. But my dear, you have to see them first. Despite all that has happened, the William character needs to see his son. It’s been six years. No one is forcing you to forgive him or stay around him. Just allow him see Jeff. Allow him ask for forgiveness and then you can go. Let both of you have closure because you don’t want this boy to grow up resenting you for keeping his father away from him.”
“I don tell am.”Terdoo’s mother butt in “All this run pesin dey run don tire me.”
Terdoo chewed her nails to keep from crying. She knew there was no escaping the inevitable. Nnenna took her hand. “Trust me to handle this well, okay? Just give them few minutes of your time and then you can be on your way to Jos.”
“Mom,” Sesan stated in a whiney tone, “Jimi took the last plane to Jos by twelve. There’s no other one.”
“Well, it’s three o’clock now. You can still catch the evening flight to Abuja. When you arrive there, stay in a hotel and leave for Jos tomorrow morning. Go get ready.”
Sesan grumbled under his breath as he left the table. Terdoo excused herself from the sitting room and went to the kitchen where she splashed water over her face to calm her nerves. She took out a bottle of coke from the fridge, sat on a chair and gulped it down as she awaited the arrival of William and his mother. The minutes ticked by in a slow pace and just when she thought some miracle had prevented them from coming, she heard a car drive into the compound.
Terdoo sprang up from her chair and pranced around the kitchen in aimless circles until she heard the nasal tone of William’s mother’s voice coming from the sitting room in a distinctive Irish accent. Terdoo felt her head go light and a sharp tremor course through her. Nnenna walked into the kitchen and guided her to the sitting room, to the presence of the woman who once hated her. She looked older now. Much older. Her auburn hair was packed up in a bun, revealing her pale and wrinkled face which tried to light up in a smile as soon as Terdoo walked in. William was nowhere in sight and the realization briefly calmed Terdoo but she went back to her distress again when his mother got off her seat and rushed to hug her in tears.
Terdoo stood unresponsive until the woman pulled away from her. Then she kept her face away, refusing to look at her as slobbery apologies poured from her lips. Terdoo moved aside when she was done in hopes that the woman would let her be. Gratefully, she found reason to be rid of her when Kiki broke into a cry. But as she rushed to get her, the shadow of a man cast itself into the sitting room from the front door.
Terdoo went cold. Her stomach churned up a bad movement and she was forced to fix her eyes on William whose huge frame was blocking daylight from coming in through the door.
She had expected him to be beached in a wheelchair as the rumors had told, miserable and gaunt but he stood there, a more mature version of the man she used to know. Something in him seemed wiser and calmer and it arrested her full interest. She didn’t even feel Kiki who was tugging at her dress from below.
His voice hadn’t changed; it was still the same rich baritone she used to love. Kiki cried out for her attention and she broke her concentration off him and picked Kiki from the floor, albeit distractedly because her eyes had just noted something wrong with William. He had come in with crutches or rather, the most part of him had. Missing was some good part of his left leg; a stump was now in its place. Terdoo stared in horror and slowly lifted her eyes to meet his.
“If I could, I’d go on both knees,” he said. “I am so sorry, Teddy. I really am. Can you ever forgive me?”
Terdoo was going to reply but she caught his eyes traveling past her to Jeff who was now awake.
“Is that…? oh God…” William leaned away from the door post. “Can-can I talk to him?”
“No!” Terdoo was vehement. “don’t go near him!”
“Terdoo!” Nnenna’s tone was reprimanding but Terdoo was adamant. She moved in a manner to block William from getting to Jeff.
“Jeffery!” she called and stretched out her hand to the boy, playing deaf to Nnenna’s and her mother’s voices. As she dragged Jeff and Kiki into one of the bedrooms, she heard William telling the older women to let her be. Terdoo shut the door to the room and with record speed packed Kiki’s clothes and other necessary items into a suitcase and a smaller bag. Then she picked the luggage and walked out to the sitting room.
“I really want to apologize to all of you but I feel sick to my stomach that anyone would think this meeting would go well. Mommy, Alhaja, I appreciate your efforts but I’m very sorry. I have to leave for Jos now.”
“Terdoo!” Her mother rose from her chair but a hand from William stopped her as Terdoo struggled with Kiki and Jeff and the load in her hand. Sesan just coming out of his bedroom helped her and they both headed for Alhaji’s car parked outside the house with a waiting driver.
“Please, there’s one Ghana-must-go in the sitting room with Jeff’s clothes,” Terdoo told Sesan. “Can you help me get it?”
Sesan walked back into the house and Terdoo settled in the car with the kids, informing the driver that he had to take her to Jimi’s to get her things.
“Can I speak to you, Teddy?”
Terdoo turned to William. He was hunched by the car door, poking his head in through the window.
“You’ve said you’re sorry and I have heard you. What again do you want?”
William pretended not to hear her as he entered the car, sat on the backseat beside her and rested his crutches between his legs.
“Didn’t you just hear me?” Terdoo flared.
“Teddy, I just want to be around the boy. Please.”
Fuming, Terdoo looked into William’s unnerving grey eyes hoping to relay her bitterness to him but he gave her a disarming smile and reached for her hand in-between them. She pulled away.
“I’ve been an ass and I don’t deserve to be forgiven but Teddy I am sorry…”
The sound of Sesan tapping the roof of the car interrupted them. He had deposited Jeff’s things in the trunk and was announcing that they were set to go.
“Liam, please get out. We’re leaving.”
“Let me escort you to the airport…”
“Liam, no! Go!”
“…just to say goodbye. I don’t know when I’ll see you guys again.”
“Go nau! What is wrong with you?”
William exhaled loudly and gathered his crutches in a manner that indicated he was about to leave but he cocked his head to get a good look at Jeff whose eyes had been on him the entire time.
Jeff turned his face away. William craned his neck to see him better.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Your mommy is mad at me but that’s okay. I’m your friend. What’s your name?”
Jeff was silent.
“I know you’re Jeffery. My name is Liam and I am your daddy.”
Terdoo’s mouth flew open in shock.
“That’s right.” William smiled at Jeff, having gotten his full attention now. He stretched out his hand to him. “Come on, say hi to me. Say hi to your dad.”
Jeff slowly put out his little hand with a skin tone that matched William’s and rested it on William’s palm.
“Teddy,” William looked at Terdoo, “this is the best day of my life and I never want it to end. Tell the driver to take us to the airport. I’m going to Jos with you.”
“Are you insane?”
“Maybe but I am never letting you or my son out of my sight again.”