Excerpt from Part 1:
Dad was always the understanding, easy going person while mom was equally cheerful and submissive. I often thought their love was one made in heaven as the chemistry existing between them was so palpable, even a child as little as I was could tell. Annalise, still looking out the window spoke again; unknowingly snapping me out of my short reverie.
“She said that we’ve been betrayed…”
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We could never have seen it coming: that Dad would be caught right at the centre of an extramarital office romance. It was too befuddling to process. The questions of when, how and why proved very difficult to answer. Maybe the signs were there all along. I myself couldn’t tell anyway, the slight nuances that had begun to chip away at the love and spark that existed between mum and dad. But, he had started coming home late from work, missing his evening meals more frequently.We would be lucky enough to see once together as a complete family during the week. He’d given the excuse of politics – having to keep a constant relationship with the people that mattered including party chieftains and lobbyists but now mum knew better. Finally, she got a meaningful explanation for the late-midnight calls and texting. It was politics, but funds, strategies and scarce resources weren’t the only things at play.
Quite surprisingly, a big scandal was created. Somehow, the news percolated to the media. It just would not be kept under wraps. The fact that Mr. John Adeleke had been embroiled in an amorous relationship with his personal assistant, Sheila, made for an interesting read. Different versions of the story were told. Some said he’d been the victim of the base cunningness of a seductress, who was bent on stealing him away from his wife. Others depicted him as the sexual predator seeking an avenue to satiate his wild sexual fantasies. A good number of were ridiculous with their needless animadversion. They wondered what sort of man there was, that would betray and cheat on the beautiful Amina, as mum was popularly called.
No doubt, following that revelation, my soft tender mind was full with questions; not that anyone around could provide the answers. Mum was a light-skinned Nubian damsel, possessing a smile that could compete with the shimmering iridescence of the sun and rainbows, but now, she wore a dark veil of melancholy. She’d taken into her recent broodings; sitting in the banana shaped chaise, knitting a short rounded cap out of light-pink wool — her wrappers tied snuggly against her body with her long hair running riotously down her bare shoulders. It wasn’t hard to see that things weren’t alright with her as she continued her knitting late into the night whilst humming a couple of her native songs – none I could understand. I knew she’d been hurt. I had been too. But while Dad’s betrayal pierced through my heart, hers had been smashed into smithereens. She trusted him completely; leaving nothing to calculation or cynicism. But he had repaid her in another currency; marked by deception and perfidy.
Some weeks later, Dad visited the house. He scurried past the corridor just beside the kitchen where I was making an awful attempt to fry beans — not even distracted by the acrid smell I was producing – and went up into the master bedroom, ready to cart away his belongings. I switched off the gas and tiptoed up the stairs, listening with rapt attention, in anticipation of what outburst might reoccur between their two. Luckily, as it turned out, mum had just left the house to purchase some groceries. On arriving a few metres away from the room, I would hear the rustling sounds of cellophane bags followed by the soft ripping sound of his box being zipped up. I stood in the doorway, my chest thumping slightly. Then, in a slyly unsure tone, I asked aloud; “Where are you going dad?”
As though he had always been aware of my presence there, he turned unsurprisingly, flicking a glance to the spot where I stood. And then, in one swift single motion, he picked up his box.
“You don’t have to go!” I pleaded. “I’ve heard what they said, but it shouldn’t be like this…..If it’s that you want to marry another woman, fine. We-we can still stay to-to-together…….”
He looked amusingly in my direction, obviously not finding any sense in what I had just said, before letting out a loud raucous guffaw. “You always are full of surprises Amanda,” he replied. “Unfortunately, this is how it’s going to be….don’t expect to always see me around because I and your mum have parted ways”.
He picked up his things and found his way out. It wasn’t long before he was behind the wheels, and his foot on the gas, driving furiously out of the large compound into the coal tarred street outside, slicing the wind as he powered forward, almost succeeding in blowing away all the tender feelings I had for him — nurtured and soaked for eons in pure love, respect and sheer admiration.
It was difficult to reconcile the man who stormed out of the house that late November afternoon with the one I knew as my father ever since I was a little girl, the man who bought me dolls and little pink dresses, who stuffed my young pert mouth with cherries and strawberries, the one who carried me on his broad shoulders for the world to see. The vicissitudes of life, they say, are mostly hard to fathom; and sometimes, as shocking as they come. He never came back that year. Not even when we were marking the crossover – the 31st day of December. While the clock turned its long arm slowly towards the figure of twelve, an accurate reminder that a new year was about to be birthed, we held hands across the four-seater dining table to pray. Mum had been singing; her voice growing more melodious as each passing minute brought us closer to the dawn of a new day; a new month and a New Year altogether. But sitting directly opposite where I was, was an empty chair – the place Dad usually positioned himself at meal time. At some point I would imagine he was right there, smiling and chuckling, his face ignited by the glowing slender flames from the candles, as his eyes sparkled with laughter. Instead, every time I blinked my eyes at that spot again, I met with the reality of his absence. Dad was always a compelling figure – chatty, witty, and humorous, a great conversationalist that could weave his way into most hearts; often making friends easily in diverse social circles. Even now, his absence seemed to send much louder sound waves than his deep attractive voice would most times produce.
I reminisced the times while we lived at the suburbs of Ibadan, when we would take out a mat and chill out in front of the house — all four of us — in a bid to escape the debilitating effects of an insecticide recently sprayed. Sometimes, Annalise and Mum would retire early to sleep, leaving Dad and I out in the cool dark night. Dad would begin his interesting tales again – for some reason, he usually saved the best for me. They were the ancient folk tales of the great animals that inhabited the jungle – some funny, some educative, others a mixture of the two. One particular night, we were left alone yet again, with only the shrill cries of the crickets as company, and the soft thumping noise the squirrels made as they jumped down from tree branches, pausing just for a second before disappearing into the shadows once more. The sky was lit with so many stars; it appeared as though we had teleported into another galaxy. When he rounded off his amazing stories, we lay back, gazing in awe at the marvelous constellations that littered the dark endless sky. Altogether did they sparkle; an assortment of possibilities like each little twinkle contained a promise – of hope, of light, and of peace. Dad often told Annalise and I that we would grow up to become immense stars; the kind that would leave indelible footprints on the sands of time. He said that we should never be the shadows of this dim world; but through each little good deed, each little help we could render, we should provide a ray of hope for the next person by us. That, by so doing, we would become like the stars. We would become the spark of light where darkness had dominated. We would be making the world a better place to live in; each and every single day. On crossover night, however, there were no stars. The small amount of fireworks did little to make up for their absence. Dad was gone like the stars, his invigorating charm and presence merely a figment of my imagination.
Days rolled into weeks and weeks became months and as time flew by, the relationship between Dad and Mum soured. All attempts at reconciliation were met with a red-brick wall. Mum had grown more dispassionate. She would hear no more of it; of Dad and Sheila or Sheila and her protruding baby bump. She was done with the trash as she firmly stated; she had finally moved on. It was no secret that divorce proceedings were about to commence. Quite surprisingly, Dad was becoming the more amiable of the two. I thought he had made up his mind when he brisked past me that late November afternoon – not even taking a second glance at the things he once held dear. I guess he later sat down to think things over; to consider what he wanted more. Each time he paid us a visit, after chatting briefly with Annalise and I, he would beckon to mum, seeking to have a tête-à-tête on the veranda outside. His feelings were entirely limpid now. I could sense that he was genuinely sorry and wanted her back. But mum had her mind already made up. The betrayal was too deep, too visceral, too hard for her to swallow, digest, and have a bite at the cherry once again. Her trust had been broken and may never be regained. She wanted out and quickly as well. She assured him that she would take no part of his wealth – no property, no alimony – after all, one of her affluent admirers had secured a job for her with a top-notch media outfit as an entertainment show host. Her constant face-time invariably added to her overflowing horde of adorers, some wishing they would have a chance to date the ever-glamorous and scintillating Asmina Adeleke – a soon-to-be single mother. Divorce proceedings were set to begin on the 8th of July 2007 and little after that, she would be free from the “sham” she had termed marriage, to focus on her budding career as an on-screen personality.
One evening however, while we were in the sitting room, munching slices of turkey and sipping cranberry as we watched Papa Ajasco & Co. on the television screen, a soft rap was heard on the door. The gateman introduced someone as a visitor who had news for mum. The visitor spent some minutes with mum; the two of them conversing in low tones. When he left, Mum shut the door and turned to face us. Instantly, I could tell that something was up. Her bright demeanour had given way into a pale downcast face.
“What’s the matter?” Annalise screamed out impatiently. She wasn’t the type to take suspense easily. Mum stood there, at first struggling to find her tongue. When she finally did, she was mumbling something rather incoherent.
“I d-d-d-don’t really kn-kn-know ………he said something about a-a-a-a-……….” Her voice trailed off again. She was apparently very disturbed. She excused herself and ran up the stairs. In less than two minutes, she was down again, clutching tightly to her purse as she wheezed past us, almost tripping over the last step as she approached the door. “I have to go now, I’ll be back soon” she’d said and left hurriedly.
To be continued…
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