And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
If a feather dropped, someone passing outside would hear it. The silence that rested upon the Omotosho family in Leye’s living room was as compelling as the mix of emotions that lined their hearts.
Papa had just cleaned out one half of his closet before his children and their spouses. The truth was finally being let out. It was ugly and excruciating to hear. Love had passed around tissues to her sisters-in-law. She was now passing around fresh ones.
“I was not the father you all knew. I lived a shameful life. I don’t deserve your love, or forgiveness,” he said, coming to the end of his confession.
Shade covered her face in a sob. Big Mommy, also known as Jumoke, who was seated beside her, lent her shoulder for comfort.
“I have struggled with telling you this but it’s been difficult. I keep postponing it. But I think it would be dishonor to you to have you hear it from outside. I am utterly sorry. Please, forgive me for being terrible in my past, and for how I treated your mother.”
Love was sad, specifically because Papa excluded the part about how his late wife had, to a certain degree, been responsible for the lack of romance in their marriage. Even Leye was not aware of that part of their history. Papa had confided in her alone.
“But there’s more,” he added.
“More?” Shade repeated.
She buried her face on Jumoke’s laps.
“Jumoke?” Papa called.
Jumoke gazed at her father, apprehension slowly filling her eyes.
“The woman you thought was your mother, that you were told died when you were very little, was not your real mother. The woman who bore you, who was also your uncle, Olaitan’s wife, passed away just four days ago.”
“Uncle Ola was married?” Jumoke asked.
“And Uncle Ola is my father?”
Papa shook his head.
Jumoke tapped Shade off her laps. “Daddy, please explain.”
Papa looked at Love. She encouraged him to speak with a discreet nod. She had cheered his decision to come out to the public, but stressed that his family needed to know first. However, she was worried that just as he had done with the stories of his affairs, he would give only a one-sided version of what he was about to tell Jumoke.
“Your aunt, Aduni, came to live with us when I was just eleven years old. She was about seventeen then. I hadn’t attended her wedding to Ola. I was only told they had married in her village in Ota. She was loved by everyone. Beautiful, appealing, lively. And she liked me.
“Your grandfather was running a small textile company then and my elder brothers were involved. He wanted me to be part of it too but I was interested only in school and books. That counted as rebellion. And so when Ola who was then a soldier, was given accommodation in the barracks and he had to take Duni along, I was told to follow them as some form of punishment, knowing Ola was very strict with me, and life in the barracks would straighten me up.
“Now, Duni couldn’t have babies. They had taken her to different herbalists but nothing worked. This affected her relationship with Ola. Before his marriage he had suffered from a bad temper. With Duni, it doubled. He’d hit her every chance he got, over every little thing, calling her names. As young as I was, I felt her pain; I became sympathetic towards her. The years went by, I grew, tall and fetching. Girls were all over me, but all I cared for were my books. If I had maybe gotten some street education like the boys at the barracks, it would have helped me in so many ways.
“Duni and I became close, as much as one could be close to one’s elder brother’s wife, within the confines of morality. But I had fallen in love with her. It was pure and foolish, and wrong. I was ashamed of myself for the feelings I had. Nobody told me it was the way with teenage boys and their furious hormones. I prayed every night and morning for God’s mercy but the love grew. Duni, on her own side wanted me, but in a less innocent way. Ola was hardly around then, and at that time there was a lot of tension in the country, especially between the Igbo soldiers and their northern counterparts. My mom had wanted me home but my dad maintained that the barracks was best for me. So I remained with Duni. Whenever Ola came home and saw it fit to hit her, it was I who would clean her injuries afterwards and comfort her by reading stories from my books about foreign people and where they lived. She could not read, write or speak English but she understood every word I delivered to her. The stories I read took us both away from the world around us.
“Duni loved alcohol. She found solace in it. She would send me to buy her local beer and hot drinks because I was a boy and no one would raise an eye. I would return home and watch her down it all and still go about with a clear head. So one evening, she invited me to drink. I didn’t object; I had always wanted to try it because I felt it was what made one a man. But after just taking a cup, I passed out. It happened a few more times after that day. I’d drink, pass out and not recall anything by morning.
“But you know how these things are. One starts to develop a strong head after a few tries. And it was on one of those nights after I had drunk my usual one cup, that I woke up and found Duni doing things to my body. When I tried to move, she pushed me down. My legs were too heavy to go anywhere, so I lay there and watched her, until it all ended. In the morning, she tried to find out if I recalled what happened, but I pretended not to know what she was saying. I felt utter shame, and for days I avoided her. But soon, because of what I felt for her and how she knew well to wheedle me, I was drinking another cup of a hot mixture of herbs and alcohol that left me almost incapacitated and aroused at the same time. However, when Duni came to me at night, I pushed her away and left the house. I feigned some illness and ran home to my mother who was then pregnant with your late uncle. She was happy to have me home. She pleaded with my father to let me stay for the remnant of the school term. I didn’t tell her what Duni had done.
“But my bliss did not last long. Duni had fallen pregnant and had tried to pin it on Ola who was very certain the baby was not his. He accused her of whoring around in the barracks. He wanted her to name the men she had slept with or he would beat the pregnancy out of her. Scared for her life, she named me as the only man who had touched her. But she added that it hadn’t been consensual. She told him I had forced myself on her.
“So Ola came home with a cutlass, ready to kill me. It took our three elder bothers to hold him down. A family meeting was set with all parties concerned. Did I rape Duni or not? I was asked. I sat there on the floor of our compound, shocked at Duni’s false accusation, and yet, not missing the desperate plea in her eyes. I loved her so much and knew her so well that she didn’t need to talk for me to hear her. I thought of what would happen to her, how she would be kicked out, how she would have no one, how she would take the child she was carrying away, a child that could be mine.
“‘Kunle, you did not do this evil thing,’ my mother said as she wept. ‘Not my son. I did not raise you like this.’”
Papa smiled sadly in recollection.
“I truly wanted to end her shame, to make her feel that she had done something right with me, but Duni’s tears and the bruises Ola had already inflicted on her that left her weak were more than I could bear. So, I lied. I said I had forced myself on her and she had kicked me out of the house, and that was why I returned home.
“My brothers almost killed me that day. For my mom’s intervention, I would have died. My father looked at me, spat on me and told me he never wanted to see me again. My mother would not have an audience with me. She locked herself in for three days without food or drink, and when she finally emerged, she helped me pack my things into a bag, gave me some shillings and sent me on my way to Abeokuta. I traveled to be with my grandmother in the heat of the Biafran war.
“Jumoke, you were born in my absence, and the moment your grandmother held you in her arms, she banished your mother from her sight. Duni returned to Ota, back to her people where she stayed for most of her life. She never remarried. It was I who brought her back to the family house a couple of years ago. I loved her still, for a very long time, after the whole saga. Even when my family saw me as the black sheep. Even when I was treated with scorn. The only person who kept a warm relationship with me was my mother. When my father died, my brothers took everything he left behind. She had to fight them before I was given something. And then she died too, right after my grandmother passed away. I was married to your mom then, and we had just had Omoleye. We weren’t rich but we had the Omotosho name which helped me open some doors. I stopped feeling pity for myself, dusted up my life and made something out of it.
“So that is your story and mine, Jumoke.”
Love released held breath. Papa had not protected Aduni as he had said he would. She was grateful for that. He had been self-sacrificing all his life. It was time to get the blame off his shoulders.
“You allowed them think you were a rapist, daddy?” Shade asked. Jumoke was too shaken to speak.
“It was either me or Duni.”
“Daddy, that’s sad.”
“Daddy…” Ayo spoke up. “Actually, we suspected things were going badly between you and mommy.”
“She called Shade and I one day to her room, crying, telling us not to withhold sex from our husbands when we get married or they would look outside. It was weird to hear her say those words. Shade and I were just teenagers, and mommy was always shy to tell us those things. Remember it was you who gave us the sex talk. She wouldn’t even discuss our periods with us, so to hear her speak that way gave us a glimpse into your marriage. We knew things were bad. The separate bedrooms, the way you hardly spoke to each other… I’m not saying what you did was right, but we understand that it had roots.”
Shade agreed with a nod. Love almost smiled. Both women were daddy’s girls. Nothing he ever did seemed wrong in their eyes.
No one had anything to say. Love stepped in.
Jumoke looked up, face in a daze. “What?”
“You have anything to tell your dad?”
“Can I get a break? I was just told that my mom was an adulterous rapist.”
“I’m sorry. Take your time.” Love focused on her husband who was on a dining chair, away from the circle in the living room. “Jeremiah?”
“Anyone else wishes to speak?”
Jumoke’s husband moved forward on his seat and explained that he would speak on behalf of the sons-in-law. Papa held Alice’s hand held tightly in his as the man began.
A movement from the kitchen caught Love’s eyes. She gave it further inspection and caught Mina and Ify struggling with an iPad. She studied them for a bit before Ify gained the device and hurried out to the living room. Love halted her with a raised hand. Ify made a few frantic gestures, but Love insisted with the shake of her head.
Mina popped out next, her phone in hand, marching past Ify with a triumphant gait. All she needed was a sharp stare from Love and her steps came to a halt.
Love turned back to Big Mommy’s husband who was now halfway with his speech. From the corner of her eye, she spied the two assistants trying to get her attention once more, but she continued to ignore them. But then, the front door burst opened, letting Najib in. He limped forward, throwing in an apology as he walked past them.
“I’m sorry I have to interrupt you but you all need to see this.”
“NJ, this is quite rude,” Love mentioned. “My apologies, everyone. NJ, wait outside until we’re done.”
“This can’t wait.”
He walked to the television, turned it on and had it connected to the internet, specifically to YouTube. He tapped on the trending videos icon and the first thing that popped up was Phoebe’s face. The video title read: Ex-mistress Of BCC General Overseer Omotosho Breaks Her Silence Over Secret Affair
Love straightened up in her seat. “What the hell is this?”
“That’s what we wanted to show you!” Mina and Ify said at once. “It went up about two hours ago and it’s already trending,” Mina added.
“Oh, Jesus!” Shade moaned.
“And you’re just telling us?!” Love rose to her feet.
“Mommy, you said we should leave the house and give you privacy,” Ify stated. “We went for a walk and came back in and saw that all your phones have been buzzing in the kitchen…”
“Play the darn video, NJ.”
Najib tapped on the video and all went hush.
“This is bad,” Tara said, looking into her phone. “This is really bad. Boo are you seeing this?”
‘Boo’ was busy with her boob, kneading it, sucking on her nipple.
“Oh God, Papa. I can’t believe this is happening.”
Wesley’s hand was winding up Tara’s thigh. Her flare skirt had already been flung over her tummy, leaving her with her thong alone.
“Wes, do you even care that this is happening to BCC?”
“I watched the video the moment it hit the web.” Wesley stopped. “Then I was in traffic on my way here. It’s unfortunate but the old man brought it upon himself. And Bishop A too. He shouldn’t have been involved.”
“The wicked mentioned Bishop A as well?”
Wesley sighed. “Are we going to do or are you going to bother about people who made silly life’s decisions and are now paying for it.”
Tara sat up from the sofa he had flung her onto some minutes ago. “Oh my God! She just mentioned Alice.”
Wesley gave up. He went up on his feet and entered his kitchen while Tara straightened up to get better concentration on the video.
“Awww, Alice… Pastor Leye too?” Tara was beginning to tear up. “God, what is this nau? Why BCC? Who is this evil women sef? I don’t think I can take this.”
Yet she kept on, until Wesley returned with a glass of juice for her.
“How can I be drinking juice when the church is on fire?”
“The church is not on fire, baby.” Wesley sat, taking off his shoes. “They will do damage control and soon, things would be back on track. BCC won’t be the only church to be rocked with a scandal. To me, sex scandals are way better than fraud scandals. With sex, people forgive easily. With fraud, they don’t, and it makes them withhold cash.”
“The wicked woman just mentioned late Mommy Moji.” Tara started to sob. Wesley looked at her weirdly.
“You knew her?”
“No, but grandma did and she spoke highly of her. Waahh!”
Wesely was perplexed. “I’ll be upstairs, if you need me.”
He left Tara with her emotions and went up to his unnecessarily large bedroom. There, he undressed and showered. When he returned, he picked his phone and dialed a number. A female answered.
“Hi luv,” she greeted.
“Wifey.” He shut his door. “How’s my baby doing today?”
“Sad. I’ve not heard from you in two days.”
“It’s work, my heart. You know how it is. A new shipment of goods just came in yesterday. I haven’t slept a wink. How are you?”
“Reading for exams?”
“Every day. I can’t wait to finish so that I can come to you.”
“Come to me keh. Please stay in Benin. There’s no saying what will happen to that hymen of yours if you land in Lagos.”
She laughed. “You’re such a joker, Wes. How is momsi?”
“Okay. We’re fighting, as usual.”
“Must you two always fight? Can’t you chill for the old woman?”
“Meanwhile, I’m hearing gist about your church o.”
“BCC nau. Abi you’re no more there? My roommate and her friend were just gisting now. I eavesdropped. Is it true that Papa had an affair while he was married?”
“I’m just hearing it.”
“I would have gone online to check but I’m out of data.”
“You’re out of data and you didn’t tell me? Ivie, what’s wrong with you?”
“Must I ask for everything from you? It’s just 1k. I’ll renew my subscription when I go out to buy dinner.”
“I don’t want to ever hear you say you shouldn’t ask anything from me. I am your fiancé. You’ll soon be my wife. It’s my job to take care of you. I don’t want those useless campus boys to come and steal you from me.”
She gave a giggle.
“But I’m not joking. Don’t let those boys deceive you.”
“They won’t. But seriously, about your church…”
“Whatever you heard is a lie. Just bad belle people.”
“My roommate is a huge Papa fan. She’s been praying for a BCC fellowship to kick off on campus sef, so I wonder why she would lie.”
“See ehn, when it boils down to it, and I mean no offense…”
“Offense already taken.”
She laughed. “When it boils down to it, Catholic church is the best.”
“Go and sit down, my friend.”
“True. My church is the best. No scandal like this between the priests and women.”
“But there are between priests and small boys.”
“See ehn, I can’t judge Papa or any priest for what they do. My motto is since you only live once, just face your life and do you. Whatever makes you happy.”
“Dangerous thoughts there, Wesley. What if someone finds happiness in killing people? Should we also pat him on the back and say YOLO? Or the one that feels it’s okay to sleep with someone else’s wife?”
Wesley suddenly became tired of the conversation. Ivie loved to argue, and whenever she was given the chance to, she would use arguments to show off her intelligence. Her brains were what attracted Wesley to her, but sometimes she went overboard and never forgot to remind him that she was studying to be a doctor.
“Wifey, I have to go. Someone is at the door.”
“Okay, Wes. I love you.”
“I love you too, my heart.”
He wore his clothes and returned downstairs to Tara who was still in a sour mood. Lying on the sofa, she had her legs raised, exposing her thighs. He was instantly turned on at the sight of her. She was by far the most pleasurable woman he had been with. Her naivety and submissive qualities made her all the more appealing. She would have been the best fit for him, but his mom had chosen Ivie. He wasn’t a mommy’s boy; it was just that the woman had never been wrong with her counsel. And in this case, he totally agreed with her.
Her reasons were that Ivie who was intelligent and enterprising was on her way to being a doctor, too. But Tara was an unpopular makeup artist. Gullible and lazy. Neither he nor his mother saw any good coming out of her in the long run.
“It’s her type that will sit at home, do nothing and get fat, eating all your money,” his mom had hypothesized. “If a man out there tells her the right things that’ll tickle her fancy in your absence, she would just fall for him. Look at how easily she left her fiancé of three years. You think she would be faithful to you?”
“That’s enough, mom,” Wesley had scolded. He hated when she spoke disapprovingly about his women. A less than perfect partner was a poor reflection of his discernment. And no one knew how to remind him of his wrong choices like his mother.
“Pick Ivie. She has been with you for a year. She is smart, faithful and ambitious. As long as she remains a virgin for you, you’ll be in control of her heart after your first night together, which would be on your wedding night, of course. Not all that nonsense you keep doing with girls up and down. I do hope you have not slept with Tara. Leave her virginity for her real husband. ”
And it was after that conversation that Tara was struck off the potential wife list. She was to remain a source of pleasure and entertainment for him. He dreaded the day he would come to the decision of letting her go. It wasn’t always easy to end things with a woman one was intimate with. It felt like some part of him was constantly being taken away. Yet, it didn’t stop him from finding someone new to fill in the emptiness.
“Are you still sad?” he asked Tara as he approached her.
“Leave me jor. You don’t even care about what’s happening in your own church.”
“Tara, Papa and Adonijah made their beds. They should lie on them.”
“We should support them.”
“We should. But now, we should think about ourselves.”
He bent over and kissed her.
“Wes, we have to stop this.”
“This thing we’re doing. The sex. Just look at what is happening to Papa. I’m sure he was enjoying himself like this. Now, all his sins are exposed. What if we get exposed like that?”
“We won’t.” Wesley climbed over her, spacing out her legs to nestle in.
“And apart from that, you and I know it’s wrong.”
“At least, we’re not committing adultery, which is a sin as bad as murder.”
He grabbed a fistful of her breast and caught the nipple between his teeth through her blouse.
“Wesley,” she protested weakly.
He loved when he aroused her. She was easily stimulated.
“I always feel guilty.”
“Me too, but you’re so sweet, Tara. I can’t help myself. You make a man lose his mind.”
Tara moaned under his caresses. His hand went between her legs and began pushing in a finger.
“Wes…” she moaned.
“Don’t stop, you mean?”
He withdrew from her and pushed down his briefs.
He tugged at the strings of her thong, dragging it off her thighs and down her legs to her feet.
Disregarding her, he stretched out her thighs and drove himself into her. She whimpered pleasurably as the length of him filled her. On her own, she adjusted her bearing and gave him deeper access.
“That’s it, baby.”
She wrapped her legs around him.
“I love you,” he whispered when he saw traces of constraint hanging in her eyes. The guilt was there too, but he didn’t mind. It was part of the journey. There wasn’t a single moment, while having sex, that he didn’t feel terrible for doing it. But to him, that was where the fun lay. As a child, he had enjoyed breaking his parents’ rules simply because it gave him a rush to do so. As an adult, he lived on a constant high, doing the forbidden.
He took Tara’s soft lips in his mouth and buried himself deeper inside her. It didn’t take much to have her calling out his name. Papa, Adonijah, and their scandal were soon forgotten.
“Your problem is that you never listen!” Maggie yelled at her husband. “I warned you about getting involved with that Phoebe witch but you refused to hear! Look at it now! She has mentioned you and said all those nasty things!”
Adonijah had just returned home, carrying the look of a man weighed by a thousand problems. For the first time, he was without words. Phoebe turning against him had left him in shock.
Hadn’t he been on her side? Wasn’t it he who wanted her to get back everything the years of shame had taken away from her? Hadn’t he been pumping money into her account for the past four months? When did he become the enemy?
He ignored the other voice in his head that was reminding him of when Phoebe had come to him four nights ago to tell him that she was ready to go public with details of her past affair with Papa. Adonijah had looked at her with a nasty frown and said, “Are you out of your mind, woman? Can you not see how it’ll destroy the church?”
She had stared back at him in confusion. “But wasn’t that the plan from the beginning?”
“Well, things have changed now. I am the current general overseer and anything untoward coming from you will destroy my name and reputation. And it would mark you as an enemy of BCC which I have vowed to protect with my life. So, if George offered you something, you better go back to him and take it, because that’s the best you can get. It’s clear you’re here to tarnish the image of the church and I would not allow it.”
“I only want my son,” she had almost cried.
“Well, you will not get him with this attitude. Quit on your threats, accept what George offers and I will help you find your son. Remember that I told you that I had no hand in his disappearance. I am reiterating it. But I will graciously help you find him, only if you behave like the good girl you are.”
He had then sent her out of his office and given instructions that she should never be allowed in again. When she made phone calls to him the next day, he ignored them, sending her a text:
Have you agreed to George’s terms?
She did not reply the text or call him again. He had even forgotten about her, until his assistant walked into his office two hours ago and told him about her latest act.
His conscience condemned him but he maintained to himself that he hadn’t been directly responsible for what Phoebe did. It was all on George. Now, the problem was how he was to convince him that everything Phoebe had said about him in the interview was not true.
“Aloy, is it not you I’m talking to?!” Maggie yelled, raising her pitch higher than it already was.
Adonijah ignored her as went for his dinner on the dining table. She kept on with her tirade, while he relaxed in his chair and set about to eat.
“I will murder that witch these two hands!” Maggie threatened. “And when I’m done, I will land on you!”
“Can you let me hear word?!” Adonijah bellowed as he dunked molded yellow eba into a thick sea of white soup and tossed it into his mouth. He hissed after swallowing, and went for another scoop of eba. Resting beside his meal on the dining table was his tablet. The famous Phoebe interview with a popular media site was playing. His phone was ringing nearby. He ignored it.
“Abeg leave!” he warded Maggie off like a fly, but she was already on her way out.
Adonijah increased the volume of his tab to listen better to the part of the interview that concerned him. He had already watched it twice. He was looking for loopholes with which he would use to present his case before Papa.
“Adonijah was in on it from the beginning,” Phoebe said to her interviewer. “He knew about the affair, and had questioned me about it in the early stages. When I told him I was seeing George, he told me to be careful and ensure that I never got caught.”
“So, he never advised you to stop?” the interviewer asked.
“No. In fact, he was the one that rented and furnished the apartment George promised me. He was in support of the relationship.”
“And when it was time to have your baby?”
“I didn’t see him at the hospital because of the state of my health, but my sister told me he was around, which meant he was there to clean up dirt. That was what he always did for George. He covered his tracks. Conspiring with my sister, George’s late wife and their son, Pastor Leye, Adonijah took my son away from me and they lied to me that he had died and was already buried.”
“But you said it was the same Bishop Adonijah who reached out to you twenty-three years later, urging you to expose Papa George Omotosho. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes. It was clearly for his own selfish reasons. I think he felt shortchanged by George in some way and was trying to use me to get back at him. The plan was to come out as I am doing now, just to mar George’s reputation. But I had deferred on it because I was hoping that someone would tell me where they have kept my son. My aim was and is never to taint anyone’s name. I just wanted my son, and neither of them was saying anything. In fact, Adonijah cut me off the moment George ordained him general overseer. Four days ago, I visited George and threatened to come out with this story if I didn’t get my son. He offered me money, a car and top position in the church. I was angry. I felt after neglecting me all these years, he still had no remorse for what he did. Is that the type of man someone calls their spiritual father? I then went to Adonijah, thinking I’d get a better response, but he told me to take what George was offering and give up on my revenge quest. Those had actually been his words. He treated me like a buzzing mosquito in his ear. I never felt so humiliated and used.”
“So you’re saying that all you want is your son?”
“Yes.” Phoebe faced the camera. “George, Leye, Adonijah, Priscilla, please, give me my son. I will not stop until I have him. George, you know I have more in my arsenal to reveal about your past…”
The interviewer cut her off. “More? You care to share?”
“Not yet. At least, George, now you know I’m not bluffing. If I don’t get my son, I will keep talking.”
“What if this son is really dead?”
Phoebe looked at the interviewer with scary eyes. “He is not. I feel him. He’s near. My son is alive.”
“Daddy, your phone is ringing.” Ify hurried after Leye who was on his way to his home office. He stopped and turned.
“Hasn’t it been ringing all evening, Ifeoma? Why are you disturbing me?”
Leye caught a look in her eyes. He didn’t know why she felt Asher’s call needed to be answered over all the other calls that had been coming in.
“Don’t answer it,” he instructed and continued to his study where Papa, Love and Alice were waiting. He hadn’t wanted Alice there but Papa had insisted on having her present. The Omotosho daughters and their husbands were having dinner. Leye felt it was best to exclude them. Papa had showed enough emotional helplessness in front of them already. A man’s daughters didn’t need to see too much of their father’s weakness.
Leye shut the door.
“Dad, there’s something you should know,” he said straightaway. “Something I have hidden from you for years.”
Papa rested his elbow on the visitor’s chair in which Alice was seated.
“You should also know that it wasn’t done out of malice or any reason other than keeping you away from indignity and protecting the ministry. I have been struggling with the decision to tell you and it’s been hard.”
“Dad, your son with Phoebe is alive. She gave birth to a healthy boy twenty-three years ago. We felt it best to keep him away, where no one would come looking.”
Papa’s hand dropped from the chair. He stared from Leye to Love.
“Are you serious, Leye?” Alice asked.
Papa held confusion on his face. “What are you saying?”
“I, Sister Priscilla, Bishop A and mom felt it was best to keep him away from you and Phoebe.”
“Leye,” Alice called. “Wait. You’re saying that mad woman is not lying?”
“She didn’t know for sure. I’d have thought Adonijah would have told her but from the video, it was clear he didn’t.”
“Omoleye, you can’t be lying to me,” Papa said.
“No. His name is Asher Adewunmi.”
“Oh God.” Papa ran a hand over his hair. “Where is he? Where has he been all these years?”
“At Imaan’s orphanage.”
“I put him in the best of schools, dad. He even has a major in International Studies from the US. Asher was well-taken care of by me.”
“Why would you people do this to me, Omoleye?! Who hides a son from his father?! All these years and I knew nothing about it?! Leye, how can you keep something like that away from me?!”
“It was done to protect you.”
“And when was I going to be told about him?! On my deathbed?! You’re only telling me now because of Phoebe’s threats?! And oh, yes! You made me out to be a liar!”
“Did you hear the part where I said I have been struggling with the decision to tell you?!” Leye fired back.
“Don’t give me that! You people went behind my back and did things without consulting me and told me that my son was dead!”
“A son you didn’t want! We all heard Phoebe! You told her to abort him! Now you’re acting like you would have been the happiest dad alive if Asher had been thrust into your life?!”
“I should have been told! Let me make the decision of keeping him or hiding him away from the public! My son! My decision!”
“Yes! It’s always like that with you! Selfish and insensitive over the way you hurt others! Your affair with Phoebe was beyond you and her and what you both wanted! It affected everyone! Including people who knew nothing about it! It was never about you!”
Alice put a hand on Papa that stopped him from making another retort.
“This war of words is getting us nowhere,” she pointed out. “Let’s all breathe and find a way to work together as a team.”
Love stood up. “What Alice said. No more fights, father and son.”
Papa left where he stood and went to Leye. He spoke in a broken voice. “I’m sorry for the burden you had to bear…”
“This is not the time.” Leye would not look into his eyes.
“Do you have a picture of the boy?”
“Not with me right now.”
“I want to see him. Can you call him over?”
“I’ll return his call. He was on the line earlier. I think he knows.”
Leye left the office. Love addressed Papa. “You and Jeremiah need to squash this beef, sir. We have only one enemy here, and that’s Phoebe. She has come after the Omotoshos and the church, and we’re going to hit back hard.”
“She’s just one person, Loveth,” Papa commented.
“Then she should have counted the cost of war before taunting her enemies. I had Najib dig into her past, just after she left BCC. We found that she had a huge quarrel with the deputy general overseer’s wife in Life and Joy Ministry. The woman accused her of stalking her husband and gave instructions that Phoebe was never to be allowed near him. Phoebe eventually left the church and went to Faith Hill Tabernacle where it was said she rose to rank quite fast. There was rumor at the initial stages that she had had something with one of the senior pastors there, and that was why she was made a leader.”
“Are we towing that line?” Papa looked worried.
“We are, Papa. We need to establish that she has a thing for pastors. The image she painted in that interview, of being manipulated by you, has to be brought to question.”
“But I manipulated her.”
“No, you fell in love with her,” Love corrected. “You had issues in your marriage and Phoebe was there for you.”
“But close. And ‘close’ will work.”
“Loveth, I’m not comfortable with this.”
“Did you or did you not try to divorce our late mommy to be with Phoebe?”
“Yes. But it was merely a thought.”
“A thought which you expressed to Adonijah?”
“Good. I am not twisting the truth here, Papa. I’m simply saying it as it is. What Phoebe has done cannot be made into a sweet-smelling garden of happy flowers. She shat on your reputation. We’ll retaliate in kind.”
“And how will this revelation of her thing with pastors be let out to the public? A source who wishes not to be named writes to a blog, I guess?”
Love smiled. “Not really. There would be faces. There would be names. Real people. In return, we would show appreciation to them for speaking out. Meanwhile, Mina tells me that BCC members have started a hashtag online. #NotMyPapa.”
“But I will corroborate Phoebe’s story and the hashtag would end up not being in our favor.”
“Papa, it’s fine. Everyone loves a man that owns up to his mistakes.”
Papa walked to Leye’s desk and perched on it. “If only I had known I actually had a son, Phoebe wouldn’t have done this. But either way, the truth would still come out. That was why I wanted to be the one doing the telling myself.”
“You will. I’ll proceed to having a talk with our PR.”
“Is she releasing a statement too?” Alice asked.
“Not immediately. But she has to say something first, before Papa speaks. I need to talk to her and brief her on what to release to the media. As for phone calls, you can begin answering them, but please, don’t respond to any questions concerning Phoebe’s claims. Papa, I would have an editor from our media team work with you on writing your response.”
“I need you all to stay strong. This might seem like hell but it’ll soon blow over. Business-wise, it kicks us in the guts, but once I get upstairs now, I’ll be making necessary phone calls.”
“George?” Alice called. “What do you plan to do to Adonijah now that Phoebe has exposed that he was behind all this from the start?”
“Aloy would deny and twist the story to prove his innocence. I don’t have time for that. Loveth?”
“I need to see what you and the PR lady are working on before it hits the public.”
“You’re welcome, Papa. I need to turn in.”
“Goodnight, Pastor Love.”
Love nodded at Alice as she made her exit.
“Duchess?” Papa sighed. “I am so sorry you have to go through this. I know I’m not premium husband material right now, but I promise, when all this goes away, I’ll give you a wonderful time.”
“It’s fine, George.” She spun the chair to face him. “How are you doing?”
“Weirdly, I feel lighter. The most important thing was letting the girls know. The burden is taken away. After we watched the interview and Omoleye prayed, I felt some sort of peace drop in.”
Alice took his hand. “If you were to turn back time, would you do things differently? Stay faithful to your late wife?”
“The old George still wouldn’t. He would do the same thing.” Papa laughed. “But this man standing before you…he’s changed. He doesn’t even know who that guy used to be.”
Alice threw her head in the direction of the window next to her. “Is that rain I hear?”
“it’s just a shower. Nothing serious.”
“I should be heading home.”
Papa helped her up. “Thank you for standing with me.”
“You’d do the same, George.”
She went for his lips in a soft kiss. Holding her hand, he led her out of the office. Everyone was still present, but Ayo had just announced that she was leaving. Papa called her over for a hug.
“Daddy, me too.” Shade hurried to him first. “We have to leave before the rain gets serious.”
She wrapped her arms around Papa and held him tightly, looking up at his face.
“Are you going to be okay, old man?”
“I’m already okay, Folashade.”
She placed her ear to his chest. “It’s true. Your heart is not beating fast.”
Her words brought some laughter to the room, sprinkling the heavy atmosphere with some relief.
“Did you call him?” Papa asked Leye, who had just popped out of the kitchen.
“I did. His phone rang unanswered.”
“Please, try again.”
“I’m on it,” Leye replied, putting his phone to his ear. The doorbell dinged, and the housemaid who was on her way out with a basket of lemons for Shade from Love, went for the door. She opened it and in came Asher. Leye took his phone away from his ear and turned to his father.
“That’s him, dad. That’s Asher.”
Papa broke the conversation he was having with Alice and looked Asher’s way. Last night, he had dreamt about him, just as he had done the night before and the ones before that. Phoebe’s visit had kicked off a series of nightly dreams about a son he was certain never existed. In each dream, which hadn’t differed from the next, Asher had been a little boy. Energetic and bright-eyed like his brother. But that was all Papa saw. Now, as he stared at him, he felt the same sort of eeriness that fell on him whenever any of his dreams came to reality.
Asher’s eyes found his, and to him, it was as if he had known the boy all his life. It didn’t seem like he was staring at a stranger. And this was because the boy bore the face of his grandfather, Papa’s father, Adewunmi. The likeness was remarkable, even though he had Phoebe’s eyes. Papa felt his heart stir.
“Young boy, who are you?” Shade, now standing by the front door questioned.
“Good evening, ma,” Asher greeted with a bowed head.
“Good evening. Who are you here to see?”
“Me,” Papa answered loudly. “He’s here to see me. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Asher Adewunmi Omotosho.”
Papa smiled as his words dropped on them like a bomb. But he didn’t take his eyes off Asher. The boy seemed to be unable to move as he held him with a gaze that was laden with warmth.
“He is my son who was once lost but now is found,” Papa continued. “Asher, welcome to the family.”
Outside, the gentle shower turned to a full downpour.