She came through the door with her arms around a young man’s waist but he had eyes only for her. He drank in her sight like a man who had his last drink several days ago. She was clad in light blue kaftan that swept the floor with a thin veil wrapped around her neck. Her thick black hair, tinged lightly with gray was styled in bangs around her narrow face and it lifted slightly from the pressure of the air blowing from the Air condition mounted in a corner of the room. She is truly alive, his heart sang as he got shakenly to his feet and approached them.
“Mum, what will you like to take?” Joseph asked as he pulled out a seat for her and she slides in.
“This place is freezing. Chai!” She rubbed her hands together.
“You can’t live in the Arctic, mum. I will tell them to reduce it. It is because we are still few in here. That is why you are feeling the cold so much.” He grinned at her as he sat down and signaled to a waiter.
“You know I am a market woman. I am used to the sun and the heat. I will get used to the cold with time.” She teased lightly.
“You are welcome sir, ma’am.” The young man presented the menu to them with a deep curtsey and stood back discreetly.
“Excuse me?” A familiar male voice stated hesitantly at her elbow. Her hand trembled as she frowned and looked up.
“No, I can’t believe my eye.” Naomi whispered inaudibly as she got shakenly to her feet.
“Who is he, mum?” Joseph eyed the stranger as he stood up too and moved to his mother’s side protectively.
“I am alive. I thought you are dead. Mother and Ronke told me you died during childbirth. I called the family doctor for confirmation and he confirmed it. Ronke later said you are not dead during her last few minutes on earth but I didn’t believe her. I went through hell. My mind shut down for months afterward and I ended up in the home.” He touched her cheek as if he was expecting her to disappear.
“No wonder, your number wasn’t going through. It was a difficult labor but my baby and I survived. We are living.” She smiled, even as tears filled her eyes and spilled over.
“Ife mi, come here.” He pulled her into his arms and they were locked together in a tight hug for several minutes.
Joseph was grinning when he turned to the waiter and placed an order for them. There was no point hanging around in the eatery as they have created enough scene as it was.
“Each time I look at your face, it is like staring at my own face. Who are you?” Olayemi asked curiously immediately they walked into their home. He left his car at the Restaurant’s parking space and followed Naomi home. They both sat at the back while Joseph drove. They didn’t say a word throughout the drive home but their silence spoke volume.
“He is your son, Ola mi. His name is Joseph Olamiposi Coker.” Naomi stated quietly.
“He is so grown. Come here, son.” He closed the distance between them and engulfed Joseph in a warm, tight hug.
“It’s my pleasure to meet you, Dad.” Joseph grinned at him and stepped back.
“The pleasure is all mine, Son.” Olayemi flashed an identical grin, even as he felt the anger rising in him.
“Mum, I will be going back to Andrew’s place to spend the night. I am sure you guys have a lot to discuss. Here is my car key in case you need to move around.” Joseph handed over his car key to him.
“Here’s mine. Go and pick it up at the Niche’s packing space and take it wherever you are going.” Olayemi gave him the key to his black Porsche along with a wad of cash to take a bike. Silence reign after he left and Naomi continued staring at his face as if she wanted to memorize it in her head.
“I can kill Ronke with my bare hands if she is not dead already.” Olayemi hit his hand on the wall in a dark rage.
“What happened to her?” Naomi sat down abruptly.
“She had complications during childbirth. She is being dead for more than 10 years and her son is staying with mother. Her husband remarried.” He sat down beside her and released a weary sigh.
“I am sorry about her death. May her soul rest in peace.” She took his hand in his hers and squeezed reassuringly.
“You still find it in your heart to pray for her? Damn it! She and mother ruined my life.” He got to his feet and prowled around like a caged animal. She went into her room and came back with a fading paper which she gave to him. He read it in silence.
“Naomi, this is not my handwriting. It is similar but it is not mine. Why will I send you a letter when I can call you? I ended up in the hospital for several months after they delivered the horrible news to me because I couldn’t comprehend your death.” He sat down beside her again.
“Lovesick fools. Like father like son.” She mumbled under her breath.
“What do you mean?” He gave her a puzzled look.
“Don’t worry about it. I will humor you one day. I asked myself why you will take the coward way of sending a letter, instead of calling but there is no one to give me answers. After I left your home, surviving with my boy become my sole priority.” She shrugged, her eyes were focused on the screen.
“That means you didn’t go back home? Why, Ife mi?” He frowned at her.
“I did. Papa threatened to kill me if I ever step my feet on his doorstep again with my bastard. Mama was in support, as usual, being the obedient wife always. I left and never go back.” She smiled grimly.
“Please forgive me. I can’t undo the past but I promise I will never abandon you again. Hell, I have missed my son’s growing years.” He pressed his fingers to his eyes as he knelt in front of her.
“No. Please stand up.” She wrapped her arms around his middle and he drew her into his embrace.
“I have never stopped loving you. I miss you so much.” He buried his face in her neck.
“I miss you too, Ola mi.” She whispered in a voice, hoarse with tears.
“Let’s eat while we catch up on each other’s lives.” He tucked her beneath his arm as he sat on the sofa and reached for the nylon of take-out brought in by Joseph.
“I will get some plates.” She began to stand up but he pulled her back.
“Where is your sense of adventure, Ife mi?” He looked pained and she giggled as she dipped her fingers into the salty fries.
Patricia was coming out of the bathroom when her phone rang. It was blinking in the middle of the bed and she leaned closer to see the caller ID. It was Salmon. She picked up and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Hello, Pat. I hope I didn’t catch you at an awkward time?” His husky voice asked over the phone.
“No. I just got home a few moment ago. How have you been?” She asked quietly.
“I could be better. Do you care to meet for a drink this evening or tomorrow afternoon? You can choose any time that is convenient for you.” He stated with quiet confidence.
The memory of the last time they were together years ago suffused her mind. Adrenaline coursed through her and her heart raced in fear and excitement. She glanced at the wall clock. It was 5 pm in the evening.
“Where do you want to meet?” She asked quietly before she changed her mind.
“I will see you in an hour’s time at Sultan Garden. I can’t wait to see your pretty face again.'” She heard the smile in his face.
‘I will be there.” She grinned and put a stop to the call.
“Patricia, I am sure it must be an important issue for you to interrupt my afternoon nap because you know I don’t joke with it.” Afolake swept into her private sitting room as she tied the sash of her violet blue house robe. She was frowning.
It was Saturday afternoon. Even though it was hot and sunny outside, Patricia was almost shivering as she got to her seat. Cold air blasted her from all corner of the room from invisible Air conditioning system.
“I am sorry for disturbing your rest. Olayemi has not been spending the night at home since he came back into the country. I assumed he has been very busy and didn’t want to disturb him. He came home this morning and told me he wants a divorce from me.” She stated solemnly. The memory of her dinner date with Salmon kept drifting into her mind and she struggled to keep a straight face in front of her mother in law.
“What? Are you sure of what you are saying? What was his ground for divorce?” She asked angrily.
“He claimed he is already legally married to one woman and that being married to two women at the same time is against the law. Though he promised to compensate me well.” Patricia struggled to maintain a sober look.
“That is ridiculous.” She stated with a frown as she lowered herself into a seat.
“I don’t know what to do. What am I supposed to tell the children? I wanted to discuss Kayode’s engagement with him but he is not ready to listen.” Patricia sighed heavily.
“Leave him to me. I will handle him.” She stated with a reassuring smile.
“There is nothing to handle, mother.” Olayemi strolled into the room, closely followed by Joseph. Both were dressed in similar attires, blue jeans, and Ralph Lauren t-shirt.
“Oluwa mi ooo.” Afolake whispered as she got shakenly to her feet.
“Good afternoon, Grandma.” Joseph prostrated fully in front of the elderly woman.
“Son, stand up.” She reached for his face and held it in her palms. “What kind of resemblance is this?” She wondered aloud as she traced her fingers all over his face.
Patricia’s legs trembled and she paled visibly as she stared at the young man.
“He’s Naomi’s son.” Olayemi stated simply as he sat down.
“Ah! Mo gbe! Wahala ti de ooo.” Afolake seemed to age visibly as she sat down slowly beside her son.
Joseph sat on the other side of his father and tried not to gape around in pure awe at the evidence of wealth around him.
“Mother, what is going on around here? So Yemi has a son outside wedlock and you never tell me.” Patricia shot accusing eyes at her mother in law, though she was worried because she had never seen her look so pale and shaken before.
“My dear, please excuse me for now. I will call you and explain everything to you in good time.” She stated firmly.
“Mother, I don’t understand what’s going on here. You know Kayode is the rightful heir. I didn’t bargain for all these nasty surprises.” Patricia stated stubbornly.
“Woman, leave my presence now. I will call you when I need you.” She glared at her. Patricia stormed out in anger.
“How is your mother? What is your name again?” Afolake asked as she turned to face Joseph. It gave Olayemi a dark satisfaction to see his mother looked suddenly old, pale and tired.
“My name is Joseph Olamiposi Coker. My mother is doing very well. Thank you. She extends her regards.” Joseph smiled at the elderly woman.
“I don’t believe that. We made her life a living hell while she was here. Karma paid me well for that. I lost my only daughter during childbirth labor.” She stated calmly but Joseph heard the grief and misery in her voice.
“Grandma, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s destiny. It’s in the past. Everything in life happened for a reason. May her soul rest in peace.” He stated solemnly.
“You are such an intelligent young man. I am impressed. I need to commend your mother for doing such a great job of bringing you up.” Her eyes shone with unshed tears.
“Thank you, ma.’ He bowed slightly.
“Are you married or engaged? You are such a fine looking man. I am sure you will have lots of beautiful young ladies fawning over you.’ She stated with undisguised curiosity.
“Mother, please don’t start with him on relationship issues.” Olayemi groaned in exasperation. Joseph laughed heartily, even as Rebecca’s face floated into his mind and his heart aches at the memory.
“None of the above. I prefer older women. They are more matured. I don’t have the patience and time for all the dramas that young women exhibit. Do you have anyone in mind that suit my taste?” He flashed her a devilish grin.
“You are such a rogue.” She tried without success to disguise a grin but Olayemi suspected she was amused.
“On a serious note, Grandma, I carried out my findings on you. No wonder you earned the nickname “The dragon” in the business world. I am impressed with your achievements. You are such a strong and smart business woman. I hope to emulate your footsteps one day.” He stated with undisguised admiration. Afolake blushed. Her son practically gaped at his mother.
“Thank you, dear. It’s such a pity your Grandpa is no longer alive. He would have been so proud of you. I have merged our businesses. Olayemi and I have been doing a great job of holding the fort but it is the right time to add the next generation with their fresher ideas. You deserve a seat in the next board of directors meeting. What do you say, Yemi?” She turned to her son with a smile. This was much easier than he had anticipated. Olayemi struggled to hide a smile.
“Yes, he does. I am sure he will earn the position.” Olayemi nodded thoughtfully.
“Grandma, please give me one month to do a proper hand-over at my place of work. My employer has been very good to me and I don’t want to let him down. Secondly, I will like to start as a junior executive. It will give me time to learn the rope and the experience needed to carry out my responsibilities in the near future. It will also reduce the animosity towards me as it will give me the time to build a relationship with the staffs and win their loyalty. What do you think, Dad? Grandma?” He sat forward as he asked, looking from one to the other.
Afolake sat back in her seat and gave him a thoughtful look. Olayemi’ s heart beat fast with anxiety.
“I need to see your mother. She deserves my appreciation and gratitude. You will do alright. Take your time.” She stated solemnly.
“Thank you mother.” Olayemi smiled.
Joseph stood up and engulfed the elderly woman in a warm hug. She hesitated briefly before hugging him back.
“Thank you for the opportunity. I promise not to soil the family name and not to let you down. I believe you and Dad still have lots of things to discuss. I will see you later.” He placed a kiss on her forehead and on both cheeks before walking out. Afolake was smiling as she watched him leave.
How will Patricia and her children take this new development in the Coker family? What is going between Salmon and Patricia?
Please drop your comments.