The Travel chronicles of a sorry Nigerian to Asia. Chapter four Writing in progress. Related
“Secrets and lies kill relationships. No matter how careful you are, you will get caught”
Short story is written by the Prolific Jolade
Tade could not contain his excitement on the drive back from the examination centre, where Tokunbo, his first child and son wrote the entrance exam to one of the first rated colleges in the United States.
The result was instant and the only thing they had to wait for was the admission letter, which would come in the mail in about a month. He held khadijat hand closest to him, stroking it gently while he turned the steering wheel with the other hand.
The excitement in the car was palpable, as both parents and child were in animated conversation about how to navigate the next few years of Tokunbo’s sojourn abroad.
He was already following in his father’s footsteps to be the next lawyer in line, in the Odiyan- Hamilton dynasty.
Tade was careful not to impose on any of his children their choice of profession. He encouraged each of them to choose from the vast opportunities they were exposed to without showing any preference or prejudice.
“Your mother and siblings will miss you terribly once you leave home. Maybe you all should relocate abroad once and for all” Tade suggested.
Khadijat retorted with a gale of laughter, reminding him of how miserable he got every time they vacationed abroad without him.
She teased him about his inability to cook a decent meal for himself and finding his personal effects.
He listened to the sing-song exchange between mother and child smiling to himself and wondering how blessed he was as he recalled events down memory lane.
After a couple of minutes, he reached out to touch Khadijat cheek lightly, looked at her with pure adoration then whispered; “thank you for all these years” She leaned into him and said;
“I couldn’t have chosen a better life than the one we have together” before giving his hand an affectionate squeeze.
They bantered continuously as they approached their house located in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the City.
Mansions and Terraces that lined up neatly on both sides of road spoke of opulence and the caliber of the residents. Non-residents were to be allowed in only on presentation and confirmation of access codes by authorized personnel.
Tade knew he had to get to his phone as quickly as possible since he was expecting some important call from a few key clients. He was certain they must have tried reaching out in line with prior agreements.
He was always careful to have his device on him at all times to avoid missing such important calls.
Once they got into the house to the screams and raucous welcome party of the other kids, the housekeeper promptly handed his phone to him, while telling him about his younger son answering the call of a certain woman.
He went through his call logs quickly to crosscheck only to discover his worst fears.
As the facts began to sink in, he walked slowly to meet khadijat, handing her the phone while muttering;
“It was Lola’s call Jamal picked”
if anyone had told him the day was going to make a 360 degree turn from great to bad, he would have paid them to avert doomsday.
Not having a clue what to do next. He asked Khadija for her thoughts on how to proceed. She had suddenly gone quiet, holding her head in her hands looking all devastated.
You should go back to Lagos immediately.
“Let’s find out what she deduced from the telephone conversation” Khadijat suggested whilst promising to explain his sudden departure to their children as best as she could.
She moved closer to him, held him to her bosom and whispered into his ears that she was pregnant with their fifth child albeit unexpectedly.
Tade pulled into the driveway of his home in Lagos while sweating inside the fully air-conditioned vehicle. The whole flight into Lagos was a blur, he had called his designated driver to pick him up at the airport when he was about to board the aircraft.
He spent the time thinking about what he was going to tell Lola.
How was he going to explain that he has been living a double life the whole time she had known him?
He knew his secret would be exposed one day, but he was hoping it would be far into the future, perhaps after his passing and Tokunbo would have stepped up as the heir to the dynasty.
He had his will and estate well prepared to cater for all his children. He had planned to take Tokunbo into confidence when he turned 25 and must have become an established lawyer.
The plan just went up in flames as everything had been unraveled. He made a mental note to update the will in view of the new baby Khadijat is carrying. Another child on the way should have been cheering news to him but celebration was the farthest thing from his mind in the face of the time bomb that had just exploded.
It wasn’t about loving Lola. He had grown to have affection for her, but she just wasn’t the one that made his heart tick, although it wasn’t any fault of hers.
she had been a good wife to him all those years and had been good for the family image and connection. He had never tried to teach her or communicate the things that were important to him. He let her do what she thought best without much input from him.
He was her husband in name and function only, letting her carry on with the perception of perfection she had created for them.
Now, he has to face the music.
He had been a coward, maybe for all his life, he admitted to himself.
He should have come out with the truth when his father passed, at least, then no one would have told him he was a huge disappointment and still very useless.
He could blame his father for the dilemma he was faced with and he wouldn’t be wrong.
If only he had had more spine maybe things would have panned out differently.
Khadijat had been his saving grace. He was convinced that without her, the Tade everyone knew and revered wouldn’t exist.
He was about 20 years old when he first met her.
He had been away in university mixing up with the worst of the pack, wasting his life away. His parents were stupendously wealthy, but that was that about it.
Money was all they had to offer him. One would have thought that as the only child, his parent would have dotted on him, providing all the affection and attention he needed. That was not the case.
He grew up with a slew of nannies and from one boarding school to the other. By the time he was a teenager, rebellion was the only language he understood. He would deliberately flunk his exams and get into trouble in school.
Though he had no stomach for alcohol, he would provide money for the other boys who would them sneak it into the hostel for their consumption.
When they got caught, he would willing take the rap for it.
He managed to pass his Senior exams, but to punish him, his father insisted he would have his tertiary education in Nigeria, unlike his contemporaries.
Tade really cared less and showed it. By the time he was in his second year at the university he had managed to pile up enough carryovers to keep in in school for one additional year at least.
It was at one of the local restaurant on campus he first saw Khadijat. He had again missed a test because he was out partying, drinking and smoking the night before and overslept waking up with a hangover.
His never-do- wells friends who mostly lived off him, were having a good laugh about it when Khadijat walked over to take their food order.
One could tell from the look on her face that she did not find them amusing. She had watched them and summed them up rightly as the miscreants that they were.
She spoke in the clearest English Tade had ever heard at the restaurant and it piqued his interest. She looked him straight in the eyes and demanded that they keep their voices down. By the time they were done eating he knew he had to talk to her again.
She paid him no interest, but Tade insisted on being her friend.
He had found out that she worked at the restaurant during the day time, before attending evening classes as a part-time student.
He began to follow her routine and would find himself waiting for her at the bustop offering her free rides to her learning centre. They slowly became friends after few weeks of persistence.
Tade would often complain about the nonchalance of his parents towards him rightly justifying his irresponsible behavior. Khadijat would not accept his excuses.
She then shared her story with him. She told him she was an orphan, no one knew who her parents were. She was found at the entrance into a neighborhood mosque when she was barely 2 years old, with a bottle full of water and a loaf of bread.
The people who found her had to estimate her age, as there was nothing to identify or connect the dot as to who she was or where she came from. She still had her baby babbles putting her at between age 1 and 2. The birth date she claimed, was the day she was found, and the name she answered was given to her by the wife of the Imam who needed to call her by a name- Khadijat. No one bothered with a surname. What would she use it for?
The only basic education she was exposed to was Arabic studies taught by the Imam himself. The Imam’s wife did not think she needed any further education even when her own children were enrolled in one of the schools in town.
They were already doing her a favour by allowing her live with them and eat with the family. She wouldn’t let her husband also shoulder the responsibility for her education. She had to be a good woman and a role model in town, hence taking her in to live in the first place was an obligation she couldn’t turn down.
It must not be heard that a helpless toddler was found defenseless by people coming to pray early in the morning and the Chief Imam could not step-in to the rescue.
She started doing house chores as soon as she was old enough to respond to her name. By age 10, she had mastered the art of taking care of the whole household.
She learnt to read on her own as she would stay up at night to read the schoolbooks of her master’s children.
Khadijat understood her situation in life. She knew she was a nobody in the household, hence staying invisible was second nature to her.
She had since learnt to be grateful to have a roof over her head and being able to read whatever she could lay her hands on.
The Imam’s oldest daughter, Rakiya, who was about 6 years older would teach her a few mathematical sums whenever she was chanced. She could see her zeal to learn and allowed her access to her school books.
That was all she could do given that she was just lucky to go to school, because her mother insisted despite her father’s reluctance.
She ran out of townwhen she was 15, by that time it was clear that the only future ahead of her was to be married off as the 4th wife to another cleric.
She was eternally grateful to Rakiya for giving her some money and encouraging her to run.
Tade’s life changed for good afterwards, even his lecturers noticed. His brilliance and ingenuity began to show. He dropped his acquired taste for alcohol and narcotics and took his life seriously, even though his parents hardly noticed.
It didn’t matter anymore, what he lacked from home, he found in a new purpose and her name was khadijat.
The first sign of trouble was the eerie silence. He didn’t know what to expect, but the silence was unsettling.
The front door was unlocked.
Where are the domestic staff and the children he wondered.
It was late evening in the evening, but all lights were switched off casting shadows about.
Out of habit, Tade called out the names of each of his children from the hallway. He got no response, further fueling his trepidation.
He moved cautiously up the stairs into the private living room where he found Lola dressed in short khaki pants and a black sleeveless top, standing right in the middle of the room.
Her hair was disheveled with her eyes bloodshot as she stood barefooted with her hands behind her back.
Tade stood frozen at the door, not daring to approach her.
Blown out and printed pictures of each member of his other family were scattered around the floor. He could see one picture he remembered taking of Khadijat and Tokunbo, that was posted on Instagram, amongst those on the floor.
He didn’t have a social media profile and he kept his private business off the internet.
Both of them looked at each other for a few second without uttering a sound.
When Lola spoke, her tone conveyed all the gaiety of a death knell.
“It’s just you and I here” she muttered
“But its only one person that would leave here alive, except you start talking right away”
She rapidly shot questions at him, not waiting for any answers.
“How did you hide a whole family all these years?”
“Why did you deceive me all these years?”
“Did you ever love me at all?”
“How could you have two children with me and have four with her?”
A long pause.
“Few weeks after our wedding, you travelled, it was because she was having your second child and I was yet to even conceive”
Another moment of silence.
“The second chambers in Abuja was just a cover, so you could be there every other week. The evidences were everywhere Tade, how did you do it?”
She kept her voice soft but put steel behind it.
“Start talking” slowly she brought out her right hand from behind her, to reveal a shining knife.
“The wages of sin is death Tade” Lola Screamed as she had launched into full blown hysteria and there was no holding back.
“Anyone that breaks the hedge, the serpent shall smite, you broke our marriage vows! All our life together had been lies upon lies”
“Almost fourteen years you kept me in a fools’ paradise. How do you explain this” she hollered.
The look in her eyes held madness and fury. She brandished the knife recklessly with no thoughts to her own safety as she lunged at him.
She had carefully planned for his return the moment the driver informed her that he was going to the airport to pick him up.
She had asked the housekeeper to take her children to her parents and to stay there with them until she called for them.
The scripture had said that the wages of sin is death and Tade had committed the ultimate sin.
She gave no thoughts to the consequence of her actions in the heat of the moment as she moved towards him with maddening speed.
Seeing as danger was heading his way he bolted for safety as Lola gave a hot chase. Tade retreated through the stairs, taking it two at a time.
In the mad rush to strike him, Lola threw the knife at him. But a moving target and an amateur throw made sure it went largely off course and had no impact as it clanged against the railing of the stairs.
She continued to run pursuit when she missed a step, slipped and hit her head against the rails, before tumbling down the steps head first like a big rag dull.
Tade was too far off to stop her fall till she ended up at the foot of the stairs, in an awkward position, a motionless mass putting paid to her quest for immediate vengeance.
Tade rushed back to pick her up, calling for the driver to assist him to move her into the car and to drive them to the hospital.
He could only pray as the bleeding gash at the back of Lola’s head continued to soak him in her blood.
It had been twelve weeks since the accident. Everyone prayed for Lola to wake up.
When Khadijat heard what had transpired, she went into shock, losing the baby in her womb.
Tade told Lola’s parents and their children the truth about his betrayal, their hearts were collectively broken. Lola’s parents were utterly disappointed and told him to cede custody of their children to them whilst hoping for the best outcome from the accident.
The heart monitor was beeping loudly as the nurse on duty hurried to Lola’s bedside with the doctor in tow.
“She is awake, she is awake she announced.
Tade ran from the position he had been keeping vigil outside of Lola’s room for many weeks.
Her parents had mandated that he shouldn’t be anywhere close to their child, but he simply could not stay away.
He stood at the open window looking into the room where she was hooked to various machines keeping her alive and monitoring her progress.
She was truly awake and the doctor was checking her up.
All Tade could hear from where he stood was the exchange between the Doctor and Lola.
“What is your name?”
“How old are you?”
“Are you married?”
“Do you have children?”
“Where do you work?”
“I don’t have a job yet! I am going to the US for my Masters”
“Where is my mum I want to go home……………………”
Merry Christmas & a happy New 2023 in advance
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