Her mind went back to the conversation she had with Niyi in his office.
Standing, facing the wide windows in his office and with his back to her, he said, “I want my son.”
When she gasped, he turned and looked at her. The look on his face made her heart sink.
“I want my son,” he repeated.
“I’m his mother.”
“And I’m his father!”
She shook her head. “That’s not possible, Niyi. I can’t give up my son.” She stood to leave. “It was a mistake coming here.”
He shook his head and spoke slowly, “Don’t even think about taking off with him.” His eyes narrowed. “If you do, I will hunt you… and I will find you.”
Smiling slightly, he added, “Then, I will take him away from you.”
Slowly, she sat and he went behind his desk, sat across her and they talked.
Agnes looked at Niyi, before turning back to Sade. “He wanted Kunle to live with him, but he didn’t want you to know that he was his son, so he came up with a plan to employ me as a housekeeper here.”
Sade turned to her husband slowly and remembered how he had cajoled her into employing a housekeeper.
Lying in bed together, his arms around her, he said gently, “I’ve been thinking.”
Turning to face him, she smiled. “About?”
“Getting another help for you.”
She raised an eyebrow, “We have a help already. This house isn’t so big, so we don’t need another person working here.”
“We won’t always live in such a tiny house, you know,” he teased.
“Don’t insult my house, abeg. With three bedrooms, it’s big enough for a small family.” she laughed.
“I think we should get someone older. Most of these young girls don’t have their heads in the right place.”
She pushed away from him and sat up, twisting her body so she could look at him. “Niyi, we don’t need another help. Kemi is a responsible girl and I also don’t want an older woman, who would most likely give me attitude, in my own house.”
He reached out and stroked her waist. “If we get someone you’re comfortable with, she’ll live in the boys’ quarters, just like Kemi. She’ll take the second room, there. That way, she won’t be in your face so much.”
She turned away from him and folded her arms on her chest. “I don’t know about that, Niyi.”
He touched her back gently and said, “The doctors said…”
“Niyi, I will never be able to have another child, even if I put my feet up and did nothing all day. I think it’s time I went back to work, really. I’m fully recovered now and I miss my job.”
He smiled. “You see? If you have to go back to work, you do need an older woman in the house to take care of Bunmi, when she comes home from school.”
Smiling gently, she turned to him and bent to touch his face. “I played into your hands there, right?” Lying down again, she said, “I’ll think about it.”
She shook her head sadly now. “You had an elaborate plan to hoodwink me, didn’t you?” She stood. “Sort this mess out.”
Turning to Agnes, she said, “I want this…” She closed her eyes for a few seconds, then took a deep breath. “…this thing out of my house today.”
Head held high, she walked out of the living room. Bunmi stood and stared at Kunle for a while, before following her mother upstairs.
There was silence for a while, till Niyi spoke, “I want to see the birth certificate you have.”
Slowly, Agnes got up and left the living room. Niyi picked up his phone and made a call. “James, if Agnes comes to the gate, do not let her out.”
Kunle sighed deeply and rubbed his eyes with his right hand.
Thirty minutes later, Niyi walked into the master bedroom. Lying on her belly, his wife refused to look up. Bunmi was sitting beside her, silently rubbing her back. She looked at him, when he came in. Never had she seen her father look so unsure of himself. She looked away from him, when he approached the bed.
There was no response, so he pleaded, “I’m so sorry, my dear. I didn’t know how to tell you.”
Her voice was muffled, “Twenty-six years was enough time to mention that your son was living in my home.”
“He’s not mine, Sade.”
When she said nothing, he added, “Take a look at this.”
Slowly, she rolled over to her back and reached for the short piece of paper her was extending. She quickly ran her eyes over it.
Date of birth: January 17th 1983
She continued on, till she saw the next detail she was searching for.
Name of father: David Alabi Ifeoluwa
A look at the top of the birth certificate told her that Kunle’s birth had been registered on February 2nd 1983.
She looked up at Niyi and frowned. “This doesn’t mean anything. This could have also been forged.” She dropped the paper on the bed and Bunmi picked it up.
“I think she’s telling the truth, this time, but I’m not taking any chances. We’re going for a paternity test now.”
Walking to the wardrobe to pick out clothes, he tossed over his shoulder, “We’re all going.”
“Mummy, what did you mean, when you said that you deliberately kept Kunle and me apart, five years ago?”
That had nagged at her for a while, but she had refrained from asking her mother, till the hurt from her father’s betrayal receded a bit.
It was almost two weeks since they had found out and, in that time, Sade had moved into the spare room, opposite the room that was now Bunmi’s.
“I can’t share a bed with a stranger,” she told Bunmi, anytime she pleaded with her to work things out with her father.
The results of the paternity tests were going to be ready tomorrow, but the wait had made the entire time pass very slowly. There had not even been work to distract her; because, she had avoided going to her father’s office, as she hadn’t want to run into Kunle there.
This morning, it suddenly occurred to her that she was running out of time, in getting all the answers she needed; because, she had only two days to let the lawyers know what her decision was.
Sade sighed and looked away. “Do we have to talk about that now? It’s not important, anyway.”
“I will decide if it’s important or not.”
“Don’t tell me you’re even considering marrying that boy,” she said, peering at her daughter’s face. When Bunmi stared back at her, without saying a thing, she exclaimed, “You can’t be serious!”
Leaning over the rocking chair to touch Bunmi lightly, her voice mellowed, “Sweetie, even if he turns out not to be your brother, you can’t marry him.”
Raising an eyebrow, she asked quietly. “Why?”
“Because, he’s not good enough for you!”
When Bunmi’s eyebrow remained raised, she looked away and spoke, “The night your father asked you to leave the house, you forgot your phone here, remember?” Bunmi nodded and she continued, “I didn’t know that, till you called me from your grandma’s house. I went to your room and retrieved it, then.”
She looked away from her daughter’s steady gaze. “For the first time in my life, I snooped through your stuff. I noticed that there were lots of calls between you and I also found text messages that confirmed my suspicions.”
“Why didn’t you tell daddy?”
She shook her head. “It was one thing to know that my daughter preferred commoners to royalty…” she ignored Bunmi’s narrowed eyes and continued, “… and another to have it out there in the open. Your father would have had you marry him.”
She smiled sardonically. “At least, that was what I thought. I didn’t know he had a secret that would have made him fight that.”
She was quiet for some time, before saying, “He called you.”
Bunmi’s eyes opened wide. “Yes, he kept calling, but I didn’t pick. Soon, I turned off the sound, so that your father wouldn’t hear the phone ring. He sent text messages too, full of…” She waved a hand dismisssively. “… romantic nonsense.”
She rolled her eyes and continued, “What he didn’t know was that, he was heading to France for the week-long International Trade Convention.”
She smiled. “You see, my dear, I spoke to your father the morning after you left and convinced him to go with Kunle. My argument was that he needed someone he trusted with the business, to go with him, since he was too emotionally drained. Kunle had a valid visa, so your father was only too happy to heed my advice. By then, his text messages, to you, indicated that he had become worried. All morning, he called, till your battery became flat, but I was careful to charge it a bit before I gave it to you.” She smiled again and shrugged. “They left that night.”
“Was that why you didn’t bring my phone to me quickly?” When Sade nodded, she slowly got off the rocking chair and paced the porch. “You only came to see me the day we left for New York almost a week later. You said daddy had forbidden you to see me.”
She turned to look at her mother now. “Can you imagine how I felt when I saw no records of any calls or messages from him?”
She shook her head, sadly. “It was such a horrible time, mummy. I left Nigeria, feeling betrayed and abandoned. I wondered if, somehow, he had known that I was pregnant. I thought his silence was his way of sending a message to me about his intentions.” She was silent for a few seconds, then in a voice that was almost a whisper, said, “How could you, mummy?”
“I had to do all that, Bunmi. I couldn’t watch you make a stupid mistake.” She frowned and waved her hand impatiently. “It was one thing to give him a great education and to allow him go on holidays with us, even as a child, and another to hand my daughter over to him.”
She clucked her tongue. “I was so foolish! There I was, feeling generous, not knowing that my husband was actually making sure his son had the best of everything.”
She smiled and nodded briskly. “I convinced your father to spend two more weeks in France with Kunle. Knowing how things were at home, he was only too glad to. She rolled her eyes. “I bet, he loved hanging out with his boy, too.” She shrugged now. “It wasn’t difficult convincing your grandma that you needed some time away from home. So, by the time they came home, you were already in America with her. Kunle tried to be as casual as possible, as he asked me about you. I enjoyed the shock on his face, when he heard that you had gone back to New York.”
“And you call Ma Agnes a schemer?” Bunmi shook her head. “That must have been why you encouraged me to stay back and start a Master’s degree.”
“You had an admission already, Bunmi! There was no way I would have folded my arms and let you miss out on that.”
She smiled gently and continued, “You give me too much credit for all this, though. You had his number, so you could have called. You could have sent him an email, too.” She shook her head and added, “I didn’t make all this happen, you know. You must have known that there was no sense in pursuing a relationship with him, or you’d have tried harder. You could have even told your father immediately that he was the man responsible for your pregnancy.”
Folding her arms on her chest, she responded, “There had not been any opportunity to tell Kunle that he was going to be a father, so how could I have told daddy?” She closed her eyes, as she remembered. “Grandma hovered over me a lot, when I was at hers and I didn’t want to make any calls that could be traced to Kunle, so using her phone was out of the question. When we got to New York, I called him, but his number wasn’t going through, so I called the house, hoping to catch Ma Agnes. I asked after him and she told me that he had gone to France.”
She opened her eyes and shook her head. “I was surprised to hear that, but I thought there must have been a rational explanation for the silence. So, I left numbers, still.”
She cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow, silently asking her mother about that.
“Oh, that.” Sade’s eyes turned defiant. “That afternoon, I was using the bathroom when I thought I heard the phone ring. As soon as I came out, I picked up the extension in the master bedroom and overheard the last part of your conversation, but before I could speak, you hung up.”
She shrugged and looked away. “I made Agnes give me the paper and instructed her not to breathe a word of your call to Kunle. I told her I didn’t want any murky waters.”
She turned back to Bunmi, threw her head back and laughed. “Oh, I was such a fool. I didn’t know that she had her own reasons for not wanting both of you involved.”
“I was the fool, mummy.” Bunmi shook her head ruefully. “All these years, I was angry with daddy for the way things turned out. A lot of that blame should have gone to you, yet you were the one I held dear.”
She shook her head again. “Six months ago, when you visited me, you bemoaned the fact that I refused to come back home, forgetting that you were the one that sent me away.”
Sadly, she turned and walked away, but after taking a few steps, she turned back to Sade. “Daddy is no stranger to you. You’re cut from the same cloth.”
She continued walking.
No wonder he never called me.
She frowned. Still, I called him a few weeks later and he had already moved on.
They were all in the study with the lawyers, all eyes turned to Bunmi, to hear her answer.
When she turned to the side and met her mother’s eyes, Sade’s head went up a notch and she gave it an imperceptible shake.
Niyi sat behind the desk, his eyes giving away nothing, but his fingers beat a tattoo on his desk, betraying his agitation.
Kunle leaned forward on his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. His legs were spread wide and both feet tapped the floor. When she smiled at him, he blew out a breath with his mouth.
She turned to Gregory Olabode and smiled. “We have a wedding to plan.”