Patience came into the room and beckoned to Deola. There was hush hushes around me that I became suspicious.
“Are you planning a coup d’etat on me,” I teased.
You’ll have to all try harder I joked further.
Soon the girls were staring at me weirdly.
“Spill it out,” I commanded snapping my fingers like a royal does to her subjects.
“You might want to sit down,” Halima advised soberly. I would give a penny to see her this demure, but they all appeared to have a serious issue on their minds.
“I think you should call Bode,” Patience suggested.
“Why should I? he is out there and any minute from now I would be called”, I answered still wondering what joke the girls had up their sleeve.
“Lana, this is serious. We are not kidding,” said Deola with a strain in her voice as she knelt beside me taking my hands in hers.
“Bode and his family have left,” announced Patience.
“How do you mean? What do you mean left?” I asked perplexed.
I wrung my hands from her as I stood up to find my parents.
The girls blocked the door hindering me from going out.
I fumbled with my phone to call Bode as my hands shook with fear and confusion.
His call came through just before she made the call.
“Are you okay?” was the first thing he asked over the phone.
Hearing his voiced washed away part of the apprehension.
“Yes I am but what happened with my family?”
“I don’t know, but your uncle mentioned my aunt could explain.”
“Your aunt?” I asked more confused as to what she had to do with us.
“My mother’s twin sister arrived from the UK today and got dragged to the event. Your uncle might have known her before or someone related to them but whatever it was, did not sound good.
Your Dad was also disturbed when he whispered something to him.
We have tried to ask my aunt questions, but she says in her opinion, that there is no reason for the disruption of the introduction,” he briefed her.
“Damn!” I heard him swear. It was unlike Bode.
“I am going to see my parents right away.
“Can I pick you in about two hours?” he asked.
I could not but smile, trust Bode to be thinking of me in the worst of situations.
My heart melted. A gesture like this one, and many other were the reasons I loved the guy and death alone could separate us.
There must be some explanation to the fiasco that happened to send Bode and his people without the favourable response they expected.
I marched out like a warrior on a mission to my parents and ran into my mum.
“I was just coming to get you.We need to talk,” my mother said tiredly.
“Yeah, I answered drily. I have no idea what drama happened out there but I want it resolved quickly.
“You know what Bode and I have gone through in the past. We don’t need any family meddling. You said it yourself that he was the best guy for me,” I argued with my mum.
She flinched at my words like I had slapped her in the face. In a way, I was happy because I could tell that come what may she would be by my side.
“My dear, there are some things we never plan for that happens, and we need to be strong when they come. What we see is not always what it seems to be,” advised.
“I patted her arm with the assurance of Queen Amina of Zazzau’s victory at all her battles. There is not “seem to be” with Bode and I. ours is what there is, you get to see, assured her confidently.
“Let’s go and see Dad and sort this my Nollywood scene one out,” I said.
If only I had an inkling of the crack in my perfect life I was to encounter in a few minutes, perhaps I would not have joked so hard or taken it calmly. Bode and I would have gone far away from civilisation to live strengthened by your love for each other.
I arrived the living room with Uncle Segun and My Dad seated. My father had his lips pursed in the usual way when he had something serious he wanted to say.
“I t had better be worth every pinch of salt,” I was furious with him.
“Lana, sit my uncle patted the seat beside him for me to sit which I declined to express how upset I was.
I refused to be patronised by them. How could my family have spoiled such an important day to me without finding an effectively way of resolving the issue amicably? They had to send Bode and his family away disgracefully.
“There is something you need to know. We have kept this truth from you for a long time hoping for the favourable time to tell you,” said my Uncle Segun. What was curious to me was why he was the spokesman in this matter.
“And today is the favourable day?” I asked with disdain.
“Lana, you would not talk to your Uncle that way. We brought you up better than that,”My mother reprimanded me.
I shrugged too upset to care.
How could they sit there so righteous about what they had done?
“I do not know how to start,” said Uncle Segun.
“Start from anywhere but I need a good reason for what happened and a solution too,” I retorted angrily.
I knew my mum was looking at me, rebuking me with her eyes since her words had failed to caution me but I refused to look at her.
I was ready for a fight with my elders. Although, the saying goes that you do not fight with your seniors and win.
My Dad stood up and left us only to come back with a brown envelope that looked old. It was sealed.
“Open it,” he commanded.
I tore to envelope open, and it was a birth certificate from the United Kingdom
“What is this Dad?” I asked looking at him all the while wondering the correlation between the trouble we had and the certificate he gave me.
“Read it,” he instructed.
I read it.
The birth certificate belonged to Olulana Oluwatooni, same name, same birthday as me but with Uncle Segun and another name as parents.
“What happened to her?” I asked referring to the child.
Uncle Segun had a child born the same day as me with another woman and not Auntie Bimba, there was real trouble for him when she found out, but why give me the birth certificate?
Nothing prepared me for the bombshell my Uncle Segun dropped next.
“You are my daughter!”
“Common Uncle Segun, this is not the time or place for your jokes. We have something serious here. My introduction has been stopped by some story you are yet to tell me.I will come to this later but can we talk what happened here today,” I asked.
How was I to believe this cock and bull story of being Uncle Segun’s daughter? Some jokes died even before being shared, and this was one of them.
“What happened Dad?” I asked taking a look at him, my mother and then Uncle Segun.
“The woman that came with Bode’s family, his mum’s twin is the name of the woman on your certificate. She ‘s your mother and then makes you and Bode first cousins,” my Dad answered in that straightforward and short way parents offered an explanation and expected you to understand even an altering life information as this.
I sat stunned, taking in the information.
What was happening was not real. I must be in a bad dream.
I took a look at my parents, or not parents and uncle but not my uncle.
“It’s not true?” I whispered more a question than a statement, yet everything within me told me it was the truth.
I could not believe it, but it was true.
I looked at the paper again as the tears threatening to fall blurred my vision.
Who was I?
I was not who I thought I was.
How do these things happen? I searched my memory if I had encountered such story before in fiction or a movie but none. There was no story to relate with but my imagination.
I felt hot and cold at the same time as the doctor’s orders flashed my mind not to exert myself overly. Damn! I swore. Did I just swear? What does it matter?
You find out in one day. Your fiancé is your first cousin. Your sister all your twenty-six years of life is not your sister, your parents are not your parents and your Uncle is now your father with a mother you never knew.
Your whole life has been a joke, and nothing had been real.
I felt ripples of several emotions; hurt, betrayal, and anger.
“Why? Why now? Why was I never told this? Why was I lied to all my life?” I shouted hysterically.
My supposed parents and uncle looked with discomfort but said nothing.
They were wise not to as it would only have aggravated an already bad situation and I would have said things not worth repeating.
I was close to hating. I hated them for this.
The room became too stuffy for me. I wanted to get out. I wanted to leave the presence of these strangers I had known all my lives.
With the birth certificate in my hand, I took a last look at them and walked out of the room, out of the house and out of their lives forever.
I was unable to see Lana. We left Lana”s place, not without my uncle promising that we would look into the matter and be back with our proposal.
He was confident that whatever the issue is will be resolved and was not upset about the refusal of our proposal.
No sooner had we entered the house did my uncle rebuke my mum.
“Did I not tell you not to allow her to go with us,” he referred to my aunt like she had no name.
“Egbon, it would have still happened even if Kehinde was not there.” said my mum.
She was right because they were identical, you could hardly tell the difference between them.
“It would not because you did not know that family and had not seen them until today,” he argued.
My aunt stood there the whole time. Then she quietly asked to be excused that she was tired and needed to rest.
Tired I asked in my head. My whole life was crumbling, and you hold the key, and there you are saying you were tired.
“You can go and rest. I am so sorry for troubling you today,” my mum apologised.
“ Kehinde, You can’t go and rest yet. You need to tell us what that man meant. I could see you knew each other. Since you refused to talk there to allay their fears about our family, the little you can do now is tell us.
I punched my uncle in the back in comradeship. Mind you this was all in my head. How dare you do that to an elder in Africa, your mother’s elder brother? It was not only disrespectful. You could incur a curse on your life. The man hit the nail on the head. He was as eager to get over with the situation as I was.
“Egbon, this could wait till later, let her rest. I should not have insisted she came knowing she had just arrived from a long journey,” my mum pleaded with Baba Bisola.
“No, it cannot wait, you do not go to bed when you have an issue to resolve because sleep will be futile. I am also surprised at how calm you are about the issue. You would have told me earlier that you were not keen on your soon getting married,” queried Baba Bisola.
“Oti o! , meaning No in Yoruba. What kind of mother would I be?” I am only practical, night has come, and whatever we find out, we still need to discuss with the family and fix another introduction date. You have no idea how grateful I am not to have made the event an elaborate one. The shame would have killed me,”
“Now you are talking,” he nodded in agreement.
“That is why I want it resolved. Whatever story Kehinde has might give us a clue.” he reasoned.
“Kehinde, you don’t have to provide us with a long story just a summary what we need to know to solve the problem before us,” my mum said.
I sat there and watched as the words flew over my head. I had tried Lana, severally but her phone was switched off.
My ears piqued when I heard my aunt say,” I will tell the story, but it has no link to stop Bode and their daughter.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” said Baba Bisola impatiently.
I met Segun in the United Kingdom while in medical school, he was a law student. We fell in love. He was a perfect gentleman all the way. Pushing me to study hard and maintain my excellent grades. I was the best student in my class. My life could not have been more perfect, great school, wonderful friends, good grades and the perfect boyfriend. Segun back in the day was a good looking guy. So handsome that he had ladies eating out of his hands, but he treated them all with respect.
I was aloof at first where he was concerned. I was not fooled by his charms or so I thought. But love has no design or pattern. It happens beyond our well calculated strong will. The heart will respond and sometimes the battle of our will could be lost before we even realised what hit us.
I was introduced to Segun by a mutual friend at her birthday party. He was funny, witty and humble. He had none of the airs I had perceived from afar. I watched how he related to the others, and you could see he genuinely cared about people. We struck a friendship and became the best of friends. He had many female friends, but that did not bother me until one day, he came excitedly to my room asking for advice, he had found a girl he wanted to date. He wanted my help.
I was stunned, but I could not explain the pain I felt in my heart. For a brief second, I felt that girl should have been me. But I pushed that thought away and asked him about the girl. I would perform my duty as a friend who wanted the best for him.
The mystery girl was one lucky girl, as we planned together. Segun would ask questions, and I would answer him using the thought process of an average girl.
The big day came. He asked if I wanted to go with him. Of course, I shooed him off.
“My work ends here buddy. The rest is yours. Let me know how it goes when you have time off,” I said.
“Is someone jealous here?” he teased.
“Not in your life,” I lied as I pushed him out of the door playfully but quickly, my heart was breaking into pieces.
I fell on my bed and cried my heart out. I had lost my friend forever.
Two hours later, my room bell rang. I was not expecting any one. Segun must be busy executing our plans on his new girlfriend.
I ignored the call. I must be looking a mess, but the persistent ringing got me out of bed, it could be one my girlfriends. I was not ready for company, but it wouldn’t hurt to have someone take my mind off the pain that threatened to consume me. I had heard of heart breaks but now understood the pain. It was worse than a physical wound which could be treated and heal in no time. The ache was intense, and I had no clue how I would survive it.
I opened the door and was aghast so see Segun.
“What are you doing here? Are you not meant to be at her place?” I asked surprised he was at my door.
He ignored my question and asked me what happened that I had been crying.
My red swollen eyes must have given me away.
“Nothing, I can’t handle,” I answered with an excitement that was far from what I was feeling inside my heart.
There was no point lying.
“Enough about me.What happened to your date?” I asked trying to change the subject.
“I want to know why you were crying. I left you two hours ago, and you were perfectly okay,” pestered Segun. He apparently did not believe me.
No way was I going to bear my heart before him.
It was my secret. Time will heal me.
“Come,” he commanded me, and my wayward heart betrayed me as my legs walked towards him.
“Doctor, you can’t diagnose your ailment,” he shook his head with disappointments.
“There is no medicine or antidote for some illness,” I replied.
He was too close for comfort.
Let me try was what I heard as his lips came softly on mine.
The kiss was sweet. I angled myself towards Segun wanting to get more of him as my hungry heart yearned. I would keep this memory tucked away as a souvenir of what we never had and be contented to have shared this moment with him.
Baba Bisola cleared his throat. I am not here to listen to romantic stories. “Tell me what I need to know regarding the situation at hand.”
“I am getting there,” my aunt said unruffled.
And she continued.
I quickly pulled myself away.
What was I doing? I asked myself
“We should not be doing this,” I whispered even when my heart was screaming otherwise.
He used his finger to lift my chin and looked into my eyes. Segun was much taller than my 5 feet 2 inches.
“What do you see?” he asked hoarsely his voice filled with emotions I could not decipher.
“Your eyes,” I replied lamely and looked away.
He looked so disappointed that my heart was beating with hope. Why was he playing tricks on me when he should be doing this to his mystery girlfriend? My head reasoned.
“I love you, Agnes. I loved you the first day I saw you in the school’s cafeteria and our chance meeting at Gigi’s birthday was a dream come true. I always have and will always love you.
I was crying more and harder now. Dreams do come true. Don’t they?
“What happened to your mystery girlfriend?” I asked curious to know.
“It was you all the while,” he replied.
I smiled deliriously with happiness.
Segun was mine, and I was his.
We dated for two years. Segun finished his law course and needed to come to Nigeria for the law school and national youth service and after that, return to the UK. He lived with his elder brother then. The parents of the girl we went to see. I still had three years of med school.
The night before he left, with so many emotions of our impending situation, one thing led to another as we gave into our passion resulting in the birth of a child nine months later.
We exchanged letters all through that period. I never told Segun I was pregnant. I was ashamed, I could not call home, I could not tell you, she said looking at my mother, afraid he might break up with me. I was scared I would be thrown out of med school.
I hid the pregnancy, luckily I succeeded. Two weeks to my expected date of delivery, I went to Segun’s brother and explained that I did not want to ruin his life and snag him into marrying me, but I could not keep the child, and I wanted to put the baby up for adoption. All this while I still did not inform Segun I was pregnant.
His brother was calm when I told him. He asked me to give him a week. He needed to discuss with his wife.
They called me earlier precisely three days later. They will take the child from me. They already had a daughter. They were not adopting but will care for the child till when Segun came back, and we were able to make our decision.
I had the baby and gave her to them immediately. I applied for a transfer to another med school to finish my studies and moved on. I did not keep contacts with my friends and just disappeared. I wrote to Segun that I had found someone else, and we could no longer date.
It was the hardest thing I had to do, but I wanted this part of my life over. I wished I had done things differently, but it was still not a guarantee that Segun and I would have been together.
I never got any letter from him as I left no forwarding address and mentioned I had left. I requested the records department not give my new information to anyone.
Looking back, I made a wrong decision and had my regrets.However,
I am here now to look for my daughter and ask for her forgiveness.
I listened to my aunt’s story with rapt attention. Lana and I almost made that same mistake with Lana feeling she needed to focus on her career, making her decision on our lives without consulting me. But we were past that now.
My mum let out a sigh as she wiped her tears.
“Such a sad story and you went through this alone. Why did you not share this with me?” my mum asked her sister.
“You had your hands full, marriage, a toddler. Your life had no space to accommodate all the drama mine had. I was not proud of myself either. Going to med school and getting pregnant,” replied my aunt.
Baba Bisola to my surprise failed to give his opinion on the matter.
“Mama Bode, let me know when you have sorted it out with the family and when next we have to come.I have had enough happening for a day. A prodigal sister comes back to look for a child she abandoned whose father happens to be the Uncle of Bode’s fiancée. What is this world turning into these days,” he muttered.
“I am sorry, I never tried to communicate in time past. I was ashamed that I had failed the family. Our society frowns at having a child out of wedlock and is very unforgiving. Had I kept the baby and came back my life would be unbearable first from my family and community. I know I have no excuse. Egbon, I am sorry,” pleaded my aunt as she went on her knees in the traditional way joined by my mother.
“ It’s okay, like your sister said, we do not throw the baby and the water away. I wish you the best now that you are back. I hope you get your daughter back although it is almost too late now.