Fatihat and Josephine sat in the darkness in their study room in companionable silence a few nights later and smoked the night away.
“When was the last time you smoke, Jose?” Fatihat teased her sister, breaking the silence. “My dear, I can’t remember.Wale doesn’t like women who smoke, which was why I stopped but you are a bad influence.” She wrinkled her nose in mock disgust as she tapped ash into the ashtray. Fatihat laughed heartily.
“I am, sister. That was why you will be my favorite as if I have another one.” She grinned as she dropped her half-smoked cigar into an ashtray and lit another one with a golden lighter.
“You have another one, kiddo, an authentic one for that matter. Her name is Gift Thomas.” Josephine said with obvious delight.
“That is true. I could break her into two for all her naughtiness; I can’t even smoke in the public any longer. She does everything I do.”Fatihat groaned in horror. Josephine laughed with delight.
“How I love her and your mum. They have changed our home, girl and it is a wonderful change.”
“I’m glad you like them, Jose.I’ve been so worried about how you will feel about them’ “Are you kidding me? It is your first opportunity to have a real family and I’m having another chance. Come to think of it, Gift is your spitting age except she is smaller than you. Have you noticed?” Josephine frowned.
“I don’t know but something has been on my mind since the first day I saw mum and it was actually why I got to meet her that night anyway.” Her voice was thoughtful.
“What is it?” Josephine asked worriedly.
“Do you remember the twins I had for Tunde years ago?” She paused briefly before she continued. “Both of them have a black mole at their lower back. I have nothing like that and I have wondered where they got it from until I saw Tunde for the second time a few weeks back on the beach. The birthmark was at his lower back just above his bum. They got it from him.’
“Have you seen any of them, Lilah?”Josephine’s pulse rate increased drastically.
“I’m not sure. Gift has the birthmark on her lower back, it is the only black thing on her body except for her hair of course. I noticed it the night she had the accident.”
“I see.” Josephine nodded thoughtfully. “We would have to ask mum about her birth but we have to tread carefully because it is a delicate issue.” she added. Fatihat nodded in the darkness.
“It is a delicate issue indeed.” A voice said out of the darkness. Light flooded the room. They made the mistake of leaving the door to the study room open as Gift and Chenille has retired to bed early. They both froze with the cigar stick burning in-between their fingers and for a moment, they thought it was Gift. Chenille stood in the doorway, watching both of them steadily. They exchanged rueful glance like kids caught with their fingers in the soup pot and dropped their half-smoked cigar sticks in the ash-tray.
“Hey, mum’’ They chorused cheerfully as they grinned at her.
“What kind of ladies are you, girls?”Chenille asked with obvious disapproval as she moved towards them and pulled out a seat to sit down.
“How do you mean, mama?”Fatihat frowned at her.
“Decent girls don’t smoke. They don’t drink irresponsibly either.” She looked from one to the other.
“Yes, ma” Josephine answered meekly.
“At least, I’m half. You don’t need to be annoyed, it is just a habit and we will stop eventually.”Fatihat gave a nonchalant shrug.
“Don’t be such a silly girl, Lizzy. I wonder if this has anything to do with your past.” she mused loudly.
“What is wrong with my past?”
“Err………excuse me. I will like to go to bed now.” Josephine got to her feet hastily.
“Sit down, Josephine. You are part of this.” The older woman told her sternly. She sank into her seat with a resigned groan.
“I mean your childhood in Kaduna, your stay in the Abeeb home and giving birth to the twins.” She faced her daughter squarely and watched her grow pale with the shock which turned to anger immediately.
“Josephine, you have been shooting your mouth around, isn’t it?”Fatihat glared at her sister in anger as she got to her feet.
“Will you sit down and listen to what I have to say?” she ordered her.
“I’m not in the mood to listen to what you want to say. You can go to hell with it.” She pulled her seat back and headed for the door.
“If you move past that door, I will leave so fast your head will spin and I will take Gift with me.” Chenille told her as coldly. She froze mid-stride and then turned around slowly to go back to her seat.
“I’m sorry, mama.” She apologized after a moment. Her mother’s gaze softened instantly.
“It is okay. You’ve been independent for too long.” She told her quietly.
“But you don’t need to threaten me with leaving and taking Gift away from me every time we quarrel. That will be unfair, mama.” She said angrily.
“That is the only thing that will bring you to heel and I mean every word I said.”
“I know. Did you ever re-marry since you got separated from daddy?”Fatihat asked curiously after a moment. Josephine began to pull out a cigar stick from the pack before her gaze met chenille’s disapproving one and she dropped it, chagrined.
“In other words, you are trying to know if I’m Gift’s biological mother. The answer is No, I’m not her mother. I picked her up from the bush around Denro area in Ogun state.” she told her at length.
“I see.”Fatiha’s hands trembled as she looked at her sister and their gaze locked for a moment.
“She is your daughter, Lilah.”Josephine’s eyes filled with tears.
“I guess she is. Even at birth, I know she looks like me but we will still go for maternity DNA test to be sure.”Fatihat stared down at her trembling hands and her mother took them in hers.
“It is well. God works in wonder. I took care of my grandbaby and I got my baby back.” Chenille grinned as she patted her daughter’s hands.
“He is a wonderful God. Where did you leave the other baby? It should be in the same area but will you recognize the place if you see it? It is been a while and there will be so much development since then.” Josephine gave her a concerned look.
“I will go back and give the area a check by the weekend. I will definitely come up with a clue or something. I should still be able to recognize where I dropped him.”
“Josephine said you were raped during your stay at the Abeeb’s home which led to the birth of the twins. Your friend’s name is Tunde Abeeb. Is he from the same Abeeb family?” Chenille frowned, puzzled. Smart woman, Josephine thought with amusement as she dropped her gaze. Fatihat cringed inwardly.
“He is from the same family but he is just my colleague at work now.” She hastened to assure her but the older woman persisted. “If he is from the same family, who was the guy who violated you?” she asked persistently but there was no answer from the two women which gave her the answer she needed. “I see. You planned revenge on him but you are half in love with him already.” She grinned with amusement and Josephine laughed at the thought.
“Love? God forbids bad thing.”Fatihat spat in disgust and got to her feet. They all filed out and went to their various rooms.
Fatihat was coming back from school one sunny afternoon and decided to get some toys for Gift from the supermarket. She parked her car in the parking lot and went straight to the toy section. She was about to leave with a big stuffy teddy bear when she heard two boys arguing over a bicycle.
“It is mine. I got to it first.” The dark-skinned boy said assertively.
“I and my mum have been here before and she said she will buy it for me, so it is mine.” The fairer boy said equally firmly, pulling the handle towards himself. The other boy pulled it back. Both boys were about the same age and they glared at each other in anger. Fatihat almost laughed out loud as she approached them.
“Hello, boys. I think I love this. It is more beautiful and will last longer.” She moved to another bicycle a few feet from them and admired it openly.
“Why do you like that better?” The dark boy looked unconvinced while the other boy was clearly confused as he glanced at the second bicycle.
“My mum said this is better than that one.” The fair boy insisted, even though he didn’t sound as convincing again.
“She might be right but this is better because the handle is stronger and it has a bell that announces your movement.” She pressed the bell and tingling sound filled the room. Both boys smiled involuntarily and looked down at the one they were both holding on to. “I will take that then.” The dark boy released the other bicycle and walked over to where fatihat was standing.
“Thank you.” The fair boy said with obvious relieve as he moved with the bicycle to where his mother was waiting for him.
“Are you sure this is better than that one?” The little boy looked over the bicycle critically before he finally smiled with obvious approval.
“You are a principled Youngman. I love that.” She told him with a smile.
He grinned at her, filing away the big word ‘Principle’ to check in his dictionary when he got home. “Thank you ma. You are a beautiful woman.” He told her solemnly.
She laughed out in surprise. “Thanks. I have to say you are a natural flirt.” They both burst into laughter at that.
“I’m Delilah Smith. What is your name?” she asked curiously.
“I’m Olalekan Kolawole but you can call me Lekan like everybody does. Do you have a son like me?” She felt a sharp bang in her chest at the question.
“No, I don’t. Where is your mum by the way? You have been on your own for sometimes now.” She glanced at her wrist-watch in concern.
“I’m a big boy. I’m seven, going to eight and I can take care of myself.” He scowled at her.
“I didn’t say you can’t. I’m just saying she should have joined you by now.” She told him gently.
“I know where to find her.” He shrugged and toyed with the golden handle of the bicycle for a moment.
“What is wrong with you? Are you okay?” She asked as she realized he has gone unusually silent.
“Are you married?” His question surprised her and she took her time before answering. “No, I’m not. How can I help you?”
“I lived alone with my mum until she met this man. She wants to marry him. She said he will be my new daddy but I don’t want a daddy. I just want the two of us to be alone forever and she said I’m selfish. Am I?” He asked in a hurt voice.
“What happened to your real father?” she asked curiously.
“I don’t know. I think mum left him when I was a baby. I told her I can take very good care of her by myself. We don’t need a stranger in our house.” His voice was petulant with a stubborn jut of his lower lips. “Do you want your mum to be happy? Do you love her the way she loves you?” She asked as she hides her amusement behind a slight cough. “Of course I do.” He gave her a queer look as If her questions weren’t necessary in the first place.
“If you do, then allow her to do whatever pleases her and I’m quite sure she will never do anything that will hurt you.” She told him and watched as his brows knit together in thought.
“Okay. Thanks for your advice and your time. I will join my mum now.” He grinned at her after a while and she returned the smile. She watched as he moved towards the other end of the store with his bicycle before she turned and left the mall.
Gift was sitting on the front porch when she drove into the compound and pulled up behind Josephine’s car. She got to her feet but she didn’t bother to meet her halfway with a smile like she usually does. Fatihat knew something was wrong.
“Are you okay?”Fatihat called to her as she locked her car door and moved towards her with her big teddy bear.
“This is for you.”Fatihat handed over the teddy bear and sank down on the staircase beside the little girl.
“Thank you.” The little girl smiled faintly as she admired the teddy bear before setting it down beside her.
“You are welcome. Will you tell me what is bothering you now?” she asked in concern. “Mum said she is not my real mother. She said you are my real mother. Is that true?” Gift asked in a trembling voice.
Fatihat took a deep breath. “That is right. Is there a problem with that?” she asked in a cautious voice.
“There is a big problem. I don’t want you as my mum because you never wanted me. If you do, I wouldn’t have ended up with mum.” The little girl said accusingly as she vaulted to her feet and glared angrily at her.
“Gift, will you sit down and listen to me?” Her voice was firm, even as her heart was squeezing with pain.
“I don’t want to hear what you have to say. I hate you and I don’t want your stupid teddy bear!” She threw the teddy bear at her and ran into the house.
Fatihat did not move from where she was sitting until she heard the front door opened again and looked round to see Josephine coming out. Josephine sat beside her and hugged her to her side. Fatihat took a deep breath and felt tears welled up in her eyes.
“It is going to be okay. She will get over it.” Her voice was soothing as she placed her lips against her forehead.
“Thanks, Jose.”She whispered as she slipped her arms around her sister’s waist and leaned her head on her shoulder. They sat like that for moments until fatihat stirred and sat up straight. “You know I can shoot all the Abeebs family and watched them die one after the other.”Fatihat said ominously and they both burst into laughter.
Fatihat spent the next few days, partying and meeting new friends and telling herself she wasn’t avoiding her own daughter. She met a guy called James Joseph in an exclusive beach party she attended and the guy took an instant liking to her.
He was the kind of guy she loved, tall, good-looking and rich but he started getting on her nerves when he refused to leave her side even after the party has ended. He drove her to the hotel where she was staying with a few of her friends and wanted to come to her room with her.
“I really want to see more of you. Can I come up to your suite?” He asked casually, lightly caressing her exposed thigh and she flung his hand away, irritated.
“Stop being such a spoilsport. Haven’t we had enough fun at the party?” She snapped at him.
“Common, Lilah. I thought you are more mature than this.”
“What is your definition of maturity?” She retorted acidly. He smiled at her as his arm went around her, accidentally or intentionally brushing her left nipple through her bodice and something exploded in her head. She hit him in the nose and blood came out.
“Are you crazy?” He was furious as he touched his nose and the fingers came away with blood. Then his eyes popped out in shocking surprise when he saw her holding a gun. “Don’t underestimate it. The gun is loaded and it has a silencer. I won’t hesitate to use it if the need arise.” She caressed the sleek body of the cold weapon with a malicious smile. “No weapon is needed, Lilah. I will give you any amount of money or anything you want just for a round or a night.” His voice was laced with something close to desperation. “Gone are the days when I sleep with men for the sake of money. I can buy you and your household with my money.” Her smile was cold.
“You have landed some filthy money with some dirty guys, isn’t it?” He said with a snarl.
“Call it whatever you like, money is money and if you come after me…….” She paused dramatically and shot the windscreen. Glass shattered in different directions and he stared at it in horror. “That is the way I will blow your head to pieces. Goodnight.”She opened the car door and stepped out.
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