“I’m so sorry, Sade.”
Eyes narrowed, she shook her head, confused. “What exactly is going on, Niyi?
Niyi blew out a breath with his mouth, ran his hands over his face and turned to Kunle, who was staring at Bunmi with a look of shock on his face. “Kunle.”
Slowly, he turned his head to look at Niyi and his eyes narrowed. “Yes, what exactly is going on, sir?”
“I am your father, Kunle. Your mother and I…”
“You brought your mistress to live in my house?”
He turned back to an open-mouthed Sade and shook his head quickly. “It wasn’t that way, at all. Agnes has never been my mistress. I had a brief relationship with her and that ended almost two years before you came into my life.”
Still looking at his wife, he waved a hand in Kunle’s direction. “Kunle was born, as a result of that relationship.”
Tears fell rapidly from her eyes and wiping them away, she whipped her head away from him. “How could you keep something like that from me, Adeniyi?” She turned back to him, tapping her fingers rapidly on the side stool between their chairs. “When was I supposed to find out?”
Her eyes narrowed. “In another will, maybe?”
He leaned over his chair, to grab her hand and she snatched it away. He sighed deeply and leaned back on the back of his chair. “I didn’t always know about him, Sade.”
Shaking his head, he waved his left hand. “That’s not entirely true.”
He leaned forward now and looked at Kunle, who was listening with rapt attention. “In November 1981, after series of feasibility studies, a decision was made to expand the family business. So, by late January, I was asked by my father to go to Ibadan and broker the transaction that eventually saw us taking over a company that made plastics there. Your mother was the MD’s secretary then and we often worked together. She was young and beautiful and one thing led to another between us.”
He sighed deeply and turned, till he was facing his wife again. “That didn’t last long, because we soon realized that we didn’t have an emotional connection. We tried to stay friendly, but unknown to either of us, Kunle had been conceived already. She found out just before I returned to Lagos, in April.”
He turned again, to look at Kunle. “I asked her to have an abortion.”
Kunle looked away and Bunmi gasped. He turned his head and saw tears streaming down her face. Shaking his head in regret, he turned back to Kunle, who was staring at the door. “You have to understand, son. We were no longer together.”
Sade shook her head and said brokenly, “Son?” She had heard her husband call Kunle that before, but it had never bothered her, till now. She started crying and Niyi stood to go to her.
“I’m so sorry, dear.”
She shoved his hands away. “Leave me alone, liar! If this hadn’t happened, you would have taken this secret to your grave. Niyi, you put yams together with goats and expected them not to be eaten. Now, look what you’ve caused. Bunmi has children for her brother!”
Niyi closed his eyes and shook his head, then turned. While he slowly walked back to his chair, she looked at Kunle and looked away immediately, when she noticed the tears on his face. Shaking her head, her voice became softer, “I was right in keeping them apart, after all. I was only too late.”
All eyes turned on her. “Keeping us apart?”
“Yes, Bunmi.” Her eyes flashed in defiance, as she turned to her daughter. “Did you think that I didn’t have eyes?” She clucked her tongue and waved her hand dismissively. “You didn’t fool me when you suddenly started coming home later than you usually would, giving all manner of excuses too.”
She rolled her eyes now. “There was always a friend you had to meet up or something you had to do after work. Suddenly, you weren’t sure if you wanted to return to the States, to continue your education. You told me, as often as you could, that after four years away, you wanted to explore what Nigeria had for you.”
She rolled her eyes again. “I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. I suspected that there was a man in the picture and I waited for you to confide in me, like a good daughter.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Do you remember the day you told me you were going on a picnic with some of your friends? You left the house very early and were gone all day.”
She shook her head and clucked her tongue again. “I found out that you had lied, when I saw Kunle drop you off that night. I had taken a walk and was on my way home, when I saw his car packed a few houses away from here. It was dark, but as I walked closer, I saw two people kissing inside the car, oblivious to the world. I recognized your pink halter dress and quickly walked past, in shock.”
Bunmi’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. Her eyes darted to her father, who was staring at his wife, in surprise. Quickly, she turned her attention back to Sade.
“You showed no shame, Bunmi! You could have had anyone…” She snapped her finger once and continued, “…anyone at all, of all the suitors you had. Ambassador Kolawole’s son, a dashing young man, was ready to marry you immediately. Why did you have to choose the son of our housekeeper?”
Bunmi started crying. “I loved him mum!” she cried out and Kunle turned his head quickly to her.
Sade’s eyes narrowed. “Love? A love that was doomed, even from the start? Was that why you couldn’t look me in the face, when you eventually got home?”
She shook her head sadly and asked, “Could there have been some part of you that knew how wrong such a love was?”
She turned to her husband and spoke slowly, “Niyi, you have brought an abomination into our lives and I will never forgive you!”
Standing abruptly, she said, “Where is that snake, who dared to sneak into my home with her bastard son?”
She marched out of the living room, with Bunmi in hot pursuit, still in tears. “Mummy!” she pleaded. “Please listen to me. There has to be a better way to handle this.”
On the corridor, she grabbed her mother’s hand and after Sade tried unsuccessfully to pull away, she turned to Bunmi, leaned into her, held her waist and started sobbing.
After a while, she allowed her daughter pull her back to the living room, where Kunle paced. Niyi was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, but immediately they walked in, he sat erect and looked up, watching his wife.
After leading her mother to her chair, Bunmi dried her eyes and left the room again.
“Ma Agnes, where are my children?”
The woman looked up from the cook book she had been poring over and smiled widely. When she saw the cold look on Bunmi’s face, she slowly shut the book and spoke slowly, “Oh, you’re back, Bunmi. You must have come home when I went to my house to…”
“Where are my children?”
Ma Agnes frowned, puzzled at her icy tone. ‘They are outside, playing on the swings.”
Bunmi’s eyes narrowed. “Who’s watching them?”
“Yetunde.” She was the nanny Sade had hired, just before the burial.
She nodded briskly. “Good. Please, come with me.”
Uneasy, she followed Bunmi into the living room and immediately she saw the others, her heart rate increased. She had come into the kitchen, through the back of the house and hadn’t seen Kunle’s car.
He must have packed in front of the house.
When he stopped pacing, to stare at her with a mixture of anger and sadness, she understood the reason for Bunmi’s attitude.
Sade looked up and Agnes saw the tears streaming down her face. Quickly, she fell to her knees and spoke, “Please, forgive me, ma.”
“Forgive you for what, exactly?” She shook her head slowly. “You…you scheming snake!”
Still kneeling, she stretched her hands out, in a pleading gesture. Sade stood and moved closer, her eyes filled with venom. “I was good to you. I treated you a lot better than most people treat their helps. For goodness sake, you were almost like family! Yet, for such a long time, you lied to me.”
Bunmi rushed to her feet and held her mother, stopping her from moving any closer to Agnes.
When she heard that whisper, she turned to Kunle. “I thought it was the best thing to do, at the time. I did it all for you, my son.”
He shook his head and turned away from her. As he slowly went back to his chair, he spoke, “The woman that covered up, so elaborately, couldn’t have been you. I don’t know her.”
She turned to Sade and sat on her haunches. Closing her eyes, she said softly, “I’m so sorry. No one was supposed to be hurt. That wasn’t my plan.”
Sade laughed mirthlessly. “How noble of you! You failed to make that plan of yours foolproof, though. You connived with my husband, to bring into my home, his…”
She cast her eyes on Kunle and shook her head sadly. Then, she turned her head to Niyi, who was gripping the arms of his chair tightly and whispered, “You brought incest into my home.”
He covered his face and moaned, while Bunmi put her head on her laps, as sobs wracked her body. Looking from father to daughter, Agnes bent her head and started crying.
When she suddenly wiped her eyes and looked up, a look of determination was on her face. Looking at Niyi, she spoke softly. “I have wronged you, sir and I have wronged your family.”
She turned her face to Sade. “There was no baby.”
Sade narrowed her eyes, while Niyi uncovered his face and stared at her in confusion. When Bunmi slowly looked up, she continued, “Even though you gave me money to have an abortion, I decide to keep the baby, but fate had other plans.”
Looking at Niyi, she continued, “Two weeks after you left for Lagos, I had a miscarriage.”
“Kunle is not your son.”
Eyes narrowed, he shook his head slowly. “But…you…said…”
Bunmi and Sade exchanged glances, when Agnes slowly stood and made her way to Kunle. When she bent and attempted to take his left hand, he pulled it away and looked away. She straightened and sighed deeply, before going to sit on the chair beside him.
Turning her attention to Niyi, she continued, “I had been devastated when I lost the baby and gradually, I started to blame you for that. You knew I was an orphan and had no one. Yet, you nonchalantly told me to abort our… my child. In my mind, if you hadn’t been so disinterested, I would have had a living baby.”
“A few months after your company took ours over, some of the administrative staff were let go.” She rubbed her eyes with her left hand and continued, “It was a difficult time for me, really. I understood that the new management wanted to infuse new blood into the company. However, I also knew that if you had wanted to, you would have helped me keep my job. It became obvious that you didn’t care about me, at all. The longer I went without a job, I became very bitter.”
She turned to the side to look at Kunle and smiled, “Then, I met your father. He made me so happy and he made me forget. He promised to take care of me and he did.”
Her eyes became sad again. “In June 1982, a few weeks to our wedding, he died in a car crash. I was devastated, but I tried to be strong, till I had you on January 17th 1983.”
She turned to Bunmi and nodded. “I had to alter his birth year, to make your father believe me.” She looked at Niyi, who was leaning forward again, his head back in his hands. “I got another job after I had him, but the pay was less than what I earned before. It was tough and very lonely, as a single mother.”
“By 1987, Williams-Akanbi Conglomerate was a high profile company. I didn’t deal very well with hearing about them in the news and even though I avoided using any of their numerous products, they were everywhere! Gradually, some of my earlier bitterness re-surfaced.” She put her left hand over her eyes and bent her head in shame, before continuing in a low voice, “I felt entitled to some compensation, really.”
“Compensation?” Kunle spat out.
“I was wrong, Kunle. I know that now,” she muttered.
She raised her head and turned teary eyes on Sade. “My plan was never to move into your home. It all spiraled out of control when I came to Lagos to meet your husband.”
She sniffed and shrugged sadly. “I knew, from newspaper reports, that he was married and had a two-year old daughter, so I thought that he was just going to send me away with some money. You know…pay me off… or something.”
“How were you able to convince my husband that Kunle was his?”
Niyi raised his head and spoke through clenched teeth, “I don’t know what this woman is up to, really.”
He turned to his wife and shook his head slowly. “She showed me a birth certificate that indicated that his birth was registered in June 1982. My name was on it, as the baby’s father, and according to it, Kunle was born on January 17th 1982.”
He turned to face her and Agnes lowered her head and spoke slowly, “After parting with a little money, it wasn’t difficult convincing a clerk in a local government council office in Ibadan to give me that. He gave me a sheet of paper and I put down exactly what I wanted on the fake document. He didn’t ask a lot of questions and neither did I, days later, when I got the birth certificate I gave to you.”
She raised her head and looked at him. “I have the real birth certificate in my house. I can show you.”
She turned her body, till she was facing Kunle. “David would have wanted you to have his name, so I made sure that was on your birth certificate. I didn’t just make up any surname for the sworn declaration of age you used for school and…”
He jumped up from his chair. “This is unbelievable!” Shaking his head, his voice lowered, as he asked slowly, “Who are you?”
Tears streamed down her face. “I wanted to give you a better life, son.”
“By deceiving my husband?”
She turned quickly to Sade, “I’m so sorry, ma. It all spiraled out of my control.”