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I knew I couldn’t win Mrs. Ogunmola by creating a fuss about the child. No sane woman would give up her orphaned grandchild without a fight. My sympathy gland kicked in and I melted into tears.
“I am sorry for screaming mummy. You have every right to take him away from me. All I ask is that you give me the privilege to father him. He is the only family I have. I see Bade in him.” My voice became very sour and the tears won’t just stop flowing.
“Mummy please don’t take him away from me. He is the solace I have been waiting for.” I sobbed on persuasively. She attempted to speak but all she did was weep. I hugged her as we synchronized in tears.
Timely tears work like magic. Mrs. Ogunmola agreed to let him grow with me on certain conditions; he would be christened at her place. We would always come visiting regularly. Other conditions were pertaining to his wellbeing, and Lizzy did reassure her that she was up to the task. We christened him Oluwaremilekun Oluwafunto David, son of Ogunmola.
Years rolled by. I did well by Mrs. Ogunmola. I made sure she got to see Funto regularly. The boy called her grandma. I got a better paying job. I was transferred to one of our new branches as a manager. I moved into a better apartment and Funto began to stay with me. I enrolled him in a nursery school beside the house. That way it was easy to pick him up after school and monitor him. I gave him the best. I would drive down to pick him. I made sure other kids envied him. I love watching him run towards me while screaming “daddy.” He made me a proud father. Keji graduated and was posted to Edo State for her NYSC. However, Funto had gotten so used to her. He called her mummy and referred to Lizzy as big mummy. It was routine to call the three women every night. We were an adorable pair. At three years old, he was the smartest kid of his age. We were popular in church for our dressing; we always wore similar fabrics and styling.
As time went on it became obvious that Keji was becoming frustrated that I hadn’t proposed to her. She came home every month and that was always the bone of contention. She wasn’t particular about the ceremonious aspect of proposing. She just wanted me to go with her to declare my intentions to her parents. I didn’t know how to explain to her that she was just my soul mate and not a prospective wife, so I stalled. She was a good mother to Funto. The connection between them was like they shared an umbilical cord. And that only made it more difficult. There were days when I concluded about defiling what the man of God said, but I never found the strength to push through. It always weighed on my mind that she wasn’t mine.
She let sleeping dogs lie for a while then revisited the issue one of the weekends she came around. She had just finished feeding Funto dinner. Both of them came to sit beside me. She was audible enough so I could hear her,
“Yes mummy,” he responded like every toddler would. Leaping ecstatically and shaking his head. She smiled at him and continued,
“That’s my boy. Tell daddy to marry mummy.” I tried to hide my surprise. Expressing it could amount to an argument. The poor boy didn’t even understand what she was saying. He just nodded in approval.
“Oya say marry mummy.” She led him on, “Marry mummy.” Funto caught the vibe and they both chanted her proposition.
“Okay. That’s enough o. Mother and child, I have heard you. We should all go to bed now so we don’t go late to church tomorrow. We will start planning this marriage when we arrive from church tomorrow. Funto, you will be the chairman planning committee.” I was subtle with my sarcasm. I took him to bed and watch him doze off while reading him a bedtime story.
I arrived in my room to find Keji sitting in front of the dressing mirror. She always slept in the visitor’s room whenever she was around. I proposed it and we both agreed that it was best we slept in different rooms till our wedding night. I was simply protecting myself from her charm. Being close to her only meant one thing, intimacy.
“Aren’t you going to bed?” I walked up to her and massaged her shoulder. I knew why she was there and I figured the best way to avoid a confrontation was to make her feel relaxed.
“I will, when you are ready.” She replied with a stare at me through the mirror. I didn’t figure what she meant so I asked to see her off to her room.
“No. I am sleeping here,” she boomed with a bit of aggression.
“Okay darling, come to bed.” I patted her back and lay on a side of the bed. She stood up and began to strip. Initially, I thought she wanted to remove her robe, but she proceeded to removing her nightie.
“Wait! What are you doing?” I asked. Her actions seemed rather perturbing. She was up to something.
“I am undressing. Is there a problem with that?” she refuted in a nonchalant manner. “Didn’t we agree to remain celibate till we get wedded?” I was trying to prick her religious conscience, but she was very determined so it made no difference.
“Well, from all indications it doesn’t look like we are ever going to get married. I figured there was no point for the celibacy. I am tired of being a virgin, so let’s just get to it.” She began to remove her G-string.
“Keji stop!” I thundered with whispers. She paused and gave me an expressionless gaze. “What?” She questioned with tears in her voice.
“Please put on your dress, come to bed and let’s talk about this,” I persuaded her. She drew up her pant and slipped into her robe. I met her half way and led her to sit on the bed.
“Keji I am sorry if I pushed you this far. I care about you and I am just being cautious, I don’t want us to rush this.” I explained in an attempt to calm her. She wore a mischievous smile as she shook her head continuously,
“Kunle, did you listen to yourself? You aren’t even bold to say you love me. So, I am simply that girl you care about.”
“No, that’s not what I…” I interfered and she countered before I could pronounce the word ‘meant’. “You can explain when I am done. What’s the essence of explaining lies anyway? You no longer love me. I waited for you all these years only for you to hold back. Where did I go wrong Kunle? Have you forgotten your promise to me?”
“Can you please not interrupt me again?” She burned. I have never seen her like that, she raged reservedly. I let her have her way.
“Three years ago I wouldn’t have bothered. Kike was factor and Lizzy was a distraction. Lizzy is happily married and Kike is of blessed memory. Kunle, are you in love with another woman?”
I was speechless.
“Go ahead. You can speak now. Answer the question.” She folded her arms and waited for me to say something. I finally found my voice,
“I am not in love with any other lady except you. It’s just that…” I was clueless about how to proceed. “Keji I haven’t forgotten my promise to you. I wish I could explain but I am not sure it will make sense to you.”
She climbed the bed and knelt before me.
“Kunle, has there ever been a time when I haven’t understood you? Explain. Trust me to understand.”
“We will be fine. Just give me more time,” I pleaded with Keji. She held my hands and said to me, “I am tired of doing this Kunle. It’s crazy to know that you are within my reach yet I can’t have you. Prove to me that you want me in your future or let me go. I can’t force you to be with me, but please don’t waste my time. It would hurt me to see someone else nurture my son. We deserve each other. I just want to be a part of this team.”
She let go of my hand and made for the visitor’s room. I knew I was very much in love with her. I concluded that I will visit Mrs. Ogunmola for some elderly advice and talk to my pastor about it.
Sunday was boring for me. I stayed in my room listening to her and Funto turn over the sitting room. They laughed all day and left me in guilt.
I dropped Funto at school before heading for work as usual. At noon, I rushed home to pick Keji. I always dropped her at the park. As I drove we didn’t say a word to each other. We hardly did since the encounter. Surprisingly, she took my right hand while I controlled the wheel with the other. Emotions rushed through me; I could feel myself giving the accelerator an extra tap.
“Slow down” she muttered. I complied and reassured her, “we will be fine Keji.” She smiled at me and echoed,
“I love you Kunle.”
Her phone rang and she answered,
“Yes. This is Funto’s mother,” Followed by a moment of silence. “Oh my God!” she screamed. “What happened to my son? What hospital?”
Written by Femi Fragile (Twitter: @fragiletimbzz | IG: femifragile)