1st December, 2017. Friday.
When I entered my Father’s house with my wife Catherine and two children, the first set of things I saw were: well manicured lawns, fleet of cars, and abandoned toys on the concrete ground. It was then I realized how much time could matter. It’s been over ten years I last set foot on the ground of this mansion yet it felt like yesterday. From the louvered window somewhere around the fifth storey, I could see Baba’s ageing frame. Oh, I’ve missed Baba, my Baba. Life had tried to take its toll on the old man especially after mother’s death but he the man is a rock. I remember the rumours about the source of his wealth after mom passed; he lived through all of that and rose up like a phoenix from the ashes to become the Managing Director of the largest Oil and Gas Company in the country. Baba was more than my hero and I had really missed him.
‘Ah, Oga welcome,’ Akpan said, showing his ugly dentition and I marveled at how his intonation had improved over the years.
‘Akpan, how you dey?’ I said, handing him my bags.
‘Oga fine o. Na only you remain wey I never see before so I kon dey wonder whether you no go come. Welcome, welcome.’
I ambled into the sitting room, almost breathless after climbing the numerous flights of stairs and I could see the tiredness in my wife and children’s faces too. Baba was smiling when we entered the reception area, he was dressed in his brown kaftan that we’ve always pictured him in anytime we drew his image in the eyes of our minds. I prostrated alongside my wife and children before we hugged.
‘E Kabo,’ he said, in heavily accented Yoruba. He looked at my children, Taiwo and Kehinde and his eyes became liquid. I could tell he felt a tinge of pride.
‘Ayobami, omo mi. You’re welcome, please have a seat.’
As I made to sit, an aroma bludgeoned my nostrils and I said, almost in a scream, ‘Ah! Amala and Ewedu? We came at the perfect time!’ Everyone erupted into pearls of laughter; it was then I saw Ayoade, my elder brother, the family’s first child and first son. Our eyes locked for a few seconds before parting, mine to the white painted ceiling and his, somewhere far from mine.
‘Welcome everyone; I’m doubly excited you all are here with me. To say I expected you’d all honor my invitation would make me a liar. I know I haven’t always been the best father and grandfather to you all but I hope God grants me time to make it up. I really do. Oya, let’s go and eat!’
There was clinking of glasses and cutlery drumming on dishes. Throughout dinner, I made sure my eyes never met that of Ayoade. Even though Baba had once said there was nothing soothing about holding grudges, I know I won’t forgive him as long as Folasade is seated next to him as his wife instead of mine. I’d wanted to marry Folasade before my brother’s actions forced me into the arms of Catherine, my American bride.
It was during one of our many long strike-induced Uni holidays back in the days I discovered something had been happening behind my back. The picture is still vivid in my mind, the moans from my brother’s room and their stunned faces when they saw me. My brother and my girlfriend of almost four years. I prayed to God to teach me how to forgive but it didn’t happen.
‘Ayobami, your children are beautiful and so is your wife, our Oyinbo. Wonderful family, man!’ He said, finally breaking the silence. It was then I looked up, he wasn’t even looking at me and did he just call me man? I let out a forced, halfhearted smile that still didn’t mask my hatred before I added, ‘Thank you, and you too.’
‘Thank you, Ayo,’ Folasade then said, in that sweet-sounding voice of hers that always stretched my face into a genuine smile.
2nd December, 2017. Saturday.
Baba’s mansion overlooked a plantain plantation. I was seated at the verandah one afternoon. The white and blue sky stood tall and distant, looking translucent and having the newness of something recently washed. The afternoon came with a hot breeze that churned dust and swayed branches of trees.
‘Remember when we used to play there, Aburo?’ a thick voice said, and without a prophet, I knew it was Egbon Ayo. I smiled.
‘In this life we only have our family. I hope someday you’d understand that I never meant to do this to you.’
I almost laughed and cried at the same time. The way he pronounced Aburo hasn’t changed at all, it was still with the same endearing intimacy that we grew up with. He patted my back and left. I would have forgiven him a long time ago, but the truth I saw in Folasade’s eyes held me back.
Some years ago when he had just arrived from the US after his masters, same time I completed my Bsc. in Canada where I had met Catherine who was a nurse at the time. Baba called for a celebration and I came home. We were all filled with joy as music was blaring and it was in that moment of celebration my gaze caught Folasade’s beautiful eyes. They were steadfastly fixed on me as I was dancing with ecstasy. It was then I knew she looked at him in a different way, she looked at me in a way I had never seen her look at my brother. She looked at me with the eyes of a mother whose son just triumphed in something unbelievable, eyes glazed with something superior to love. I swore, that evening, never to forgive him.
I sighed, and realized I’d been thinking. I stood up and turned to find the bewildered stares of Baba and Ayodele on me; there was a delicacy to the atmosphere. Was I thinking out loud? Did I say something terrible? Oh, God! When I said I wish my Egbon dead, I didn’t mean it.
‘You’ve been sitting here lost in your thoughts and smiling to yourself,’ Baba said, and I let out a sigh of relief.
‘Oh, Baba. I was just thinking of old times.’
‘We were on our way out and wanted to ask you to join us. It’s that Chicken place!’ Ayodele said, gesturing towards the direction of a famous eatery we all loved as kids.
‘Ah, I’m tired Ayodele. I’m sorry I can’t go.’ Their faces rumpled into disappointment, but I couldn’t help being anywhere around Egbon and Folasade.
3rd December, 2017. Sunday.
My head was propped up on my elbow and my other hand held a straw-sewn fan as I tried to invite air to my body. I couldn’t find my wife. Power supply to the house had gone bad and as though it was a plan, the generator also packed up. My body had the wetness of a thing newly soaked in water, the hand fanning was proving futile. I separated the curtains, opened the window allowing light from the moon to creep inside the room. I saw my children deep in sleep on the other bed in our spacious room and with that satisfaction of them sleeping peacefully, I spiraled into the oppressive darkness outside my room. Catherine has stepped out earlier saying she wanted to get a glass of water. Instead of my initial plan to go looking for her, I made way outside the room with the intention of going to get some fresh air outside.
You see, there are things that know how to break a man’s spirit and one of them is infidelity because even with Catherine as my wife, I still haven’t been unshackled from the chains of Folasade’s love. It wasn’t Catherine I wanted to be with, she’s not what my heart wants. Maybe it wasn’t love at first with Folasade, but it grew to be love at last. I collided with someone just before descending the stairs and the voice whispered ‘Sorry Sir.’
‘Sarah? What are you doing here?’
‘Bami, sorry. I dey, I dey…’
‘What are you saying?’ I snapped at her, her hesitation was starting to irritate.
‘Bami na you I bin dey find. I wan show you something.’ Sarah, our housekeeper for almost as long as we’ve been born, said. ‘Abeg follow me make I show you.’
‘Follow you where? Is everything ok?’
‘Shhh! Just follow me.’
She was leading me to the back of the house and although I was a little hesitant, I followed her.
‘Is it a snake or something?’ I questioned.
‘If na snake e better.’
She was still walking, almost running as if it was something we needed to see urgently. She pointed towards a section by the maid’s quarters and she motioned for me to go and check it. I turned the corner and before I peeped, I heard those familiar moans. No, it can’t be. I finally looked up and I saw them. Their bodies entangled into a ball. I stood there in stunned silence, watching the gyration of Catherine’s buttocks as Egbon’s familiar hands pressed against them. Her moans cut through my heart like a sharp knife.
The rest of the night was long. I must have finally cried myself to sleep and didn’t even notice when or if my wife returned to the room. When I finally woke up, my eyes met a full house in my room. There they were, Baba and Egbon Ayo. My eyes caught that of Egbon Ayo. He then winked at me as if everything was perfect and then he proceeded to speak:
‘Aburo. Good morning. Sleep well?’
I struggled to process what was happening. The confusion on my face must have been obvious because Baba cut in.
‘Ayobami my son. I know sometimes in life, some things seem, a little confusing. And that is fine.’
‘What you need to know is that we are your family and family is… everything.’
I sat up in bed looking even more confused. Baba took a step closer to me and a sudden calm fell over my body. I could feel rage in my head but it was almost as if some force took control of my body. ‘What are you saying Baba? What is going on?’
‘I’m sorry it had to come to this. I’m sorry I had to involve your family, first Folasade and now Catherine. But you see, life sometimes leaves us with no choice. I also had to give up the love of my life in your mother. And then they requested pure love yet again and none was purer than yours and Folasade’s.’
‘What are you saying Baba?’
‘The mansion, the trips overseas, the good life you have all lived; it came at a cost Ayobami. I thought it would end with Folasade but the moment you married Cathy, an oyinbo, they wanted her too.’
‘So it was all true – the rumours about our mother?’
‘All that matters now is that we are all together. Both of you as my true legitimate sons together with me.’
Baba then sat beside me on the bed and then placed his left palm on my chest while muttering some words. The rage in y head vanished instantly and all I felt was peace.