Otunba Adeniyi Williams-Akanbi smiled at his daughter. “You used to fly into my arms after any time away. Five years is a long time, Bunmi.”
She opened her mouth and shut it again. I can’t believe the nerve of the man.
“Why did you send your goons to kidnap us?”
“Goons?” He started laughing. “Kidnap you?” He waved his left hand in a dismissive manner. “You’ve always had a great imagination, Bunmi.”
Suddenly, he stopped laughing and spoke slowly, “A child who refuses to respect her elders will be treated like a child, no matter how old she is. I am your father and when I…”
Raising her voice, she cut him off. “Five years ago, you lost all claim to that title when you…”
His face tightened, but his tone remained the same. “Oluwabunmi Williams-Akanbi, I am your father and that has never changed. When I ask you to visit, you will respect me and do just that. When you refused to take my calls, you left me no choice but to force you to…”
She turned, pulling the twins to the door. He raised his voice, “Where exactly do you think you’re going, young woman?”
She opened the door and they walked through, without bothering to shut it. He was quick to go after them. “How dare you walk out on me, Bunmi? Have you lost your mind?”
Taking long strides, he caught up with them and grabbed her upper arm. “Let go of me!”
Joanna burst into tears and Jake pulled his hand away from his mother’s and dashed to his grandfather. Using tiny fists, he pummeled his thigh. “Leave my mummy alone.”
Niyi looked down at the little boy and shook his head regretfully, before freeing his daughter’s arm. Bunmi quickly scooped her daughter into her arms, while her father squatted, till he was on eye-level with Jake. “I’m sorry I pulled your mummy’s arm.”
He reached out a hand and Jake slowly backed away, till he was leaning on his mother’s leg. Niyi stood and locked eyes with his daughter. They were like that for a few seconds, before the sound of someone approaching made them break eye contact.
“What was all that yelling about?”
Bunmi sighed deeply. “Hello, mummy.”
Joanna raised her head. “Grandma!” She unwound her arms from her mother’s neck and with a wobbly smile, reached out for Folasade Williams-Akanbi.
Sade ignored the sharp look her husband sent her way and took the little girl. “Hi, sweetheart. You’ve grown so much.”
With her head over her grandmother’s left shoulder, she hugged her neck very tightly. Sade closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, fighting back tears. A tug reminded her that Jake was there too. “Oh, my! Bunmi, what do you feed these babies?” She set Joanna down and lifted a smiling Jake. “You’re such a big boy now, baby.”
Still smiling, he raised four fingers. “Yes, grandma. I’m four now.”
“I’m four too, grandma.”
She set him down and grabbed their hands and swung them in hers. “Wow! Four is such a big age, my darlings.”
Bunmi stood awkwardly, staring at her mother chat with the kids. She’s such a master at defusing tense situations. I guess I’m too much like him to know how to.
She glanced at her father then. He was also staring at his wife and grandchildren. There was a look of longing on his face, but that was gone as soon as he noticed his daughter staring. I’ve missed her so much. Will she ever forgive me?
An arm placed around her waist had her turning to her mother with a small smile. Sade’s eyes were unusually bright, glistening with unshed tears. Drawing closer, she raised her arms and framed Bunmi’s face with both hands. “How have you been, baby?”
She sighed deeply and threw both arms around Sade immediately. Her arms came round Bunmi’s body and the tears fell rapidly. “I’ve missed you so much, sweetheart,” she whispered. “Your father has too.”
She slowly pulled away from her mother and glanced quickly at her father. “Is that why he had me kidnapped?”
“Kidnapped? Don’t be ridiculous.”
Sade’s eyes narrowed. “Niyi!” He put his arms behind his back and looked away. She frowned. “What’s she talking about? You said they were coming over tonight. You said nothing about forcing her to.”
He turned to look at her. “You didn’t ask.” He shrugged. “She’s here now, that’s all that matters. She needed to be reminded that I could make her come to me, if I wanted to.”
“How dare you put fear in me and my children, just to prove a silly point?”
He pointed a finger in her direction. “You are a guest in my home, young lady! You will be respectful!”
“A guest?” She rolled her eyes and laughed mockingly. “Respectful? To a man who…”
Sade snapped her finger once. “That’s enough, both of you!” She looked from Bunmi to Niyi, as they glared at each other. She lowered her voice now. “There’s time for this drama. Now isn’t. I bet the children are tired of this excitement. Bunmi, have they had dinner?”
She glared some more at her father. “The ice cream we got has, most likely, melted.”
“Ice cream? That’s not proper food.”
She looked at her mother and shook her head slightly. “Mummy, please don’t start.”
Sade rolled her eyes and squatted, till she was on the same level as the children. They were huddled together, beside their mother, holding hands. “Would you love to eat spaghetti and meat balls? Mummy said you love that a lot.”
“I guess,” Joanna said, sticking her thumb in her mouth. Bunmi reached down and gently pulled the thumb out.
“I’m not hungry. I just want to sleep.”
“Jake you have to eat something,” Sade cajoled, placing her hands on his shoulders, to draw him closer.
“Alright.” He drew the word out, then his face lit up. “Ice cream, maybe?”
Sade looked up at Bunmi, who was trying hard not to smile. She rolled her eyes at her daughter, before responding, “Ice cream it is, then.” She slowly rose to her feet.
“Grandma, I want some ice cream too.” Joanna pouted and let her shoulders slump dramatically. “I’m tired.”
Bunmi laughed out then and her father’s face broke out in a huge smile. “She’s so adorable. They both are.” She stopped laughing, but still had a smile on her face when she looked at him. He added gently, “Just like you were.”
Watching them stare at each other, without any of the previous animosity, tears sprang into Sade’s eyes again. She quickly wiped them off with her right hand.
“Are you crying, grandma?”
Giving a quick laugh, as all eyes turned to her, she responded, “No, Joanna. I had something in my eyes.” She extended both arms to the twins and they grabbed her hands. “Come, let’s go find ice cream.”
“Mum, we need to get going, really.”
Sade halted and turned. “I made up your old room for the kids and the bigger one next door for you.” Her eyes turned pleading. “There’s dinner too. Nothing fancy, though.” She opened her mouth, like she wanted to say more, before shutting it. She removed her hand from Jake’s and reached for Bunmi’s. “Please stay, baby… Tonight, at least. Please?”
Tears sprang into Bunmi’s eyes and she squeezed her mother’s hand. “What’s for dinner?”
Sade let out a shaky breath and mouthed, “Thank you.” She smiled gently and squeezed her daughter’s hand too. “Ice cream, spaghetti and meatballs.”
It felt surreal to Bunmi to be in lying down on a bed in her parents’ home. After years away, she no longer thought of the house as home. Maybe, it’s being in this room.
In the past, she had never slept anywhere else, in this house, but in the room in which her children lay sleeping now. Restless, she rolled over to her back and relived the events of the night.
Her mother had instructed Agnes to retire for the night and had heated up the meal in the microwave, herself. They had sat on high stools, around the kitchen island, and dinner had been surprisingly pleasant. Even though, at nine p.m., it was an hour past the children’s bedtime, they had been alert and quite talkative with Sade, as they ate from their bowls of vanilla-flavoured ice cream. Occasionally, Jake had sent furtive glances Niyi’s way, while Joanna had ignored him completely.
He had been quiet as he ate and twice, she had glanced his way and had seen him staring at her, even though he quickly looked away both times. She had known that she would eventually see her father, but she hadn’t anticipated seeing him in such a manner. The burial would have been a good place to see him again.
Remembering the reason she had come back to Nigeria filled her with sadness. Why didn’t she give me a chance to say goodbye, before passing on?
In the master bedroom, Niyi was pacing the floor, while listening to Sade scold him sternly. “This is our daughter and not one of your political opponents, Niyi.”
He stopped and looked at her, sitting on the bed. “I take exception to that, Sade. I don’t know what gives you the impression that politics is a do or die affair for me. I am a successful business man, so…”
She shrugged and turned her left hand up. “So, why are you intent on pursuing a political career? The family business should be enough for you.”
He shook his head and waved his right hand. “I thought we were talking about Bunmi.”
She pursed her lips. “You should be more interested in mending the rift between you and not causing another fight. How could you have sent people to grab her and force her to come here? Did you even think of the fact that she was with her children? The spate of kidnaps around the country should have let you know how scared she would have been.”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on! She was never in any danger.” When she only glared at him, he gave a wry smile and raised an eyebrow. “I’m supposed to assume that she knows about these kidnaps by watching international news, right?”
She looked away from him and he added, “When were you planning to tell me that you were in touch with Bunmi, to the extent that her children seem to know you very well?”
She moved her head slowly till she was looking at him again. “You never asked.”
Nodding slowly, he responded. “I see.”
“Niyi, you couldn’t have expected me to ignore my only child, just because…”
“Did it occur to you that, just maybe, all this drama could have ended sooner, if I had any idea that she was speaking to you?”
She started laughing, but the laughter ended abruptly. Slowly she lay on the bed, taking time to draw the duvet over her body, before speaking. “So, it’s now my fault, eh? Did you not know she was speaking to your mother too? Niyi, try and sleep, abeg. I bet tomorrow will be a long day. Please, don’t forget to turn off the lights.”
He watched her for a while, let out a breath and left the room. When she realized that he wasn’t returning immediately, she got up from the bed and turned off the lights.