Naomi paused outside Joseph’s room, her hand on the doorknob and stood very still. Loneliness weighed down her heart and she pushed the door open. Her son had always been neat, even as a boy but she picked up a dry rag and started dusting everywhere. He had been spending more time at Andrew’s place and rarely come home these days. She knew in her heart that he would get married one day and moved away from her. That day was getting closer and she wondered how she was going to fill the void. Where did I go wrong, oh God? I lost my family all in the name of love. Am I going to spend the rest of my life without a companion? She thought forlornly. She sat down on his bed and stared into space.
“Mum, what is wrong? Why are you looking miserable?” Joseph asked worriedly as he hurried into his room. She jerked around like someone who had been in a slumber and gave him an uncertain smile.
“Where did you spring from? I thought you will be spending the weekend at Andrew’s place.” She smoothed her hand over the bedspread in a nervous movement.
“Yes, I intended to spend the weekend at his place. Bella invited us to a birthday party but I changed my mind about attending. Two is a company, three is a crowd. I need to give them space to spend time together.” He smiled as he sat beside his mother.
“Is Bella and Andrew dating each other now?” She asked curiously.
“They are attracted to each other but Andrew doesn’t want to over-step his boundary. At the same time, he wanted to be sure he wasn’t on a rebound. Caroline really hurt him and she is still begging to come back.” He stated with a frown.
“Caroline has a wide streak in her she hides so well. They were not meant to be together. Andrew is a good boy. I don’t think salmon would mind seeing both of them as an item, provided he has a good plan for Bella. Who are you dating, Joseph?” She asked quietly.
“Don’t turn this around, Mum. I know I have not been around lately to keep your company. I apologize for that.” He stated solemnly.
“Don’t be silly, Boy. You owe me no apology. If you hang around here, trying to keep me company, then I will have to take you to the psychiatric home.” She chided mildly. He laughed heartily.
“Thank you for letting me off the hook. Why are you looking so sad when I came in? Is it your business?” He asked in concern. She sighed. If there was something her son inherited from her, it was his persistent.
“My business is doing fine. I just returned from a business trip to Dubai. It was fun and challenging. I love every moment of it. I also employed a new sales girl before I left so I will have someone stayed and manned my shop when I am away. Her name is Jessica.” His mother rambled on without stopping. He frowned in concern.
“Mum, what is wrong?” He took her slim hands in his and rubbed it gently. She stopped talking abruptly, covered her face with her palm and burst into tears. He put his arm around her shoulder and allowed her to sob quietly, even as different thoughts raced through his mind.
“I miss him so much.” Her next words made his blood ran cold. He frowned.
“Who is he?” He asked through clenched teeth.
“Olayemi Coker, your father. I call him Ola mi.” She gave him a quiet look through red-rimmed eyes. His breath shuddered out in relieve. Her grin flashed, full of mischief. She prodded his rib with her elbow teasingly. “You are a jealous oaf.” She smiled at him.
“Thank God. I am glad it is not Mr. Salmon. He looks like someone that loves the women and the women love him.” He shrugged.
“Salmon is a natural flirt but he is a good man. We are friends during my university days before I dropped out but he keeps trying to cross the line. When I fell in love with Yemi, he felt betrayed and stopped talking to me. The heart knows its owner.” Her voice ended in a murmur. He nodded in agreement as Rebecca’s face flitted through his mind.
“You have never discussed my father, at least not in my presence. What is he like?” He asked curiously as he turned to face her.
“I remember him every day. You are his exact spitting image. I look at your face and my heart ache. Time has not erased the memories between us but I have learned to live with it. I hope he is happy and contented wherever he is.” She smiled sadly.
“It is obvious you are still in love with him. Why are you no longer together? What went wrong between the two of you?’ He asked curiously, the question that had been burning in his mind for a long time.
“I am an Edo girl and I come from a middle-class family. My mother is a primary school teacher and Father is a lecturer in a college of Education. They are disciplinarians and staunch Christians. I am the first child and I was supposed to set good examples for my two younger siblings.” She smiled faintly.
“Where is your family?” He asked curiously.
“I am sure they are doing very well. I was disowned when I marry your father against my father’s wish.” She paused as she got to her feet. “Olayemi is a full blooded Yoruba man and religion is not their strong point in their family. His mother is an oil tycoon while his father has groups of companies across the country. They are wealthy and influential.” She smiled grimly.
“I see.” He frowned as he began to have an idea of what took place between his parent.
“He represents everything my father secretly envied, feared and detest with all his being. He forbade me to stop seeing him immediately he knew who Olayemi is. It was the same at his family home but I couldn’t complain to anyone. He proposed to me within three months that we met and I accepted. Hell was let loose within the two families but it didn’t stop us from getting married. We gathered few friends and went to the registry to sort ourselves out.” A giggle escaped her and she grinned at him.
“That means you are still married to him legally, right?’ He asked in an incredulous voice.
“Yes, I am still married to him legally. I gave birth to you in his family house.” Her lips trembled but she firmed it.
“Did his family maltreat you when you were there?” He asked in a cold voice.
“Maltreat is an understatement, they treated me like a piece of shit. I got pregnant the first time we had sex. Initially, we lived in an apartment out of town but his admission came through. He had applied for his MBA at Harvard school of business shortly before we met. He wanted to forego it because he didn’t want to leave me on my own but I rejected the idea. He now gave me the condition that the only reason he will go was if I moved into his family house. He didn’t know the extent of his family’s hatred and hostility towards me. I agreed. He left the country reluctantly and I was left to survive in the den of shark. It was hell.” She took a deep breath and faced her son. He was silent as he stared at her.
“It was a difficult pregnancy but his family made it worse. He has a younger sister, Aderonke. She was a she-devil, her mother’s daughter through and through. There were no mobile phones back then but he called me immediately he got there and gave me a number where I could reach him. We talked virtually every day and hearing his voice made living in his house much easier. Shortly before I was due to put to bed, the number stopped going through and I couldn’t reach him. All efforts to reach him proved abortive. He didn’t come back and he never witnesses the birth of his son” Her voice went hoarse with tears and she coughed to clear it.
“What happened? Don’t you think something is not right here? From the little you told me now, I don’t think he is the kind of guy that will abandon his pregnant wife without any apparent cause.” He stated in a puzzled voice.
“I don’t know what happened. I received a letter about three months after you were born. It was from him. In summary, the content of the letter was that I should move on and that he is no longer interested in our marriage. Ronke delivered the letter to me with great relish. They wasted no time in driving me out of their home. Going home is not an option, there is no money to go back to school and surviving become my topmost priority.” Tears rolled down her face silently.
He stood up and engulfed his mother in a warm tight hug. She buried her face in the crook of his neck and his t-shirt become soaked with her tears.
“It was a relief to get that off my chest.” She stepped back and gave him a watery smile.
“Go and dress up, mum. I will take you to that new eatery in town, The Niche.” He gave her a gentle push towards the doorway.
“Thank you.” She sniffed and walked out of the room.
Olayemi Coker sat in a moody silence in the corner of the new restaurant, nursing a can of unsweetened yogurt. He just got into town a week ago and he was already feeling restless. The last conversation he had with his mother played in his head all over again. It made him sad and angry.
“Olayemi, what’s happening? Pat complained that you have not been having time for the family.” Afolake Coker frowned at her son. She was a short plump woman in her seventies but didn’t look a day above fifty. She took care of her health and skin with a determination of a young man that was about to sit for Cambridge exams. She had the financial ability to take care of all her whims and never spare any expenses as long as it got her what she wanted. The evidence of her beautiful, radiant and youthful skin could be seen in several tubes and bottles that littered her bathroom and cosmetic table. She was sitting in her favorite armchair in her private sitting room, clad in a thick house robe with a towel wrapped around her head. Her right feet was placed on a stool where her personal nail technician was working on her feet.
“What am I supposed to do? Sit home and play scrabbles with them? I work my butt off to provide for all their needs and you are here, criticizing me for not being there. I think it is time you stop interfering in my life. I am sick and tired of it.” He glared coldly at her. Her call was the first he received as he woke up from bed in the morning and he had promised to see her before the close of the day.
“I will keep interfering as long as you are not doing the right thing. The girl that Kayode impregnated has put to bed. I have carried out my investigation. She is from a good home. I think we should try and see her family to request for her hand in marriage. I am sure it will keep him in check and make him more responsible.” She stated breezily, undaunted by her son’s angry look.
“Marriage doesn’t make anyone responsible, mother. You never ceased to amaze me. Kayode is the most irresponsible young man I have ever come across. He impregnated a girl and all you can think of is the family the young slut comes from. Why are you so vain and shallow? Do you care about anything except your prestigious class?” He asked bitterly, glaring at his mother.
“Don’t take that tone with me, son. The deed has been done. We have to make the best of it. He is the heir and we can’t afford to allow him to settle for trash.” She flicked a well-manicured, beautifully painted finger at him.
“He is not my heir. I will rather give out my wealth to the orphanage, rather than hand it over to him. See you later, mother.” He turned on his heels.
“Hold on, Yemi. We will get in touch with the family and give you a feedback. By the way, Titilola would be flying out for her MBA soon. Please let’s get the ceremony out of the way so she can attend. I love you, dear.” She flashed pearly white teeth at her son. He groaned with resignation. Titilola was Kayode’s younger sister. She was everything that Kayode was not, serious, responsible and focused. She was twenty-three years old and he had never seen her romantically involved with any man. It bothered him a bit.
“Who is she dating by the way? Any business tycoon in her life yet?” His voice dripped with sarcasm since his mother seemed to know more about his immediate family than he does.
“I don’t think so. That girl is too serious for her own good. I will have to look for a suitable suitor and match-make them.” She frowned at him. The sarcasm was lost on her.
“Just like you match-make her mother and I, right? Stay out of her business. She is a beautiful young girl and she’s old enough to select her man.” His eyes narrowed at his mother in warning.
“Go away and drink beer with your fellow men. What do you know?” She waved him away like a pestering fly. He just realized what made his mother a successful businesswoman. She never took No for an answer. When she wanted something, she rolled over whatever obstacle was on the way without looking at the casualties she left behind. He walked out without another word.
Her laughter cut through the angry thoughts in Olayemi’s head and he thought he was hallucinating. He looked towards the entrance with a frown and his heart seemed to come to a standstill.
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