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A Story written by Omolola…

Tomilola raised her chin in defense. “Maybe they did. My mom never did like rock music.”

“No, your dad said she didn’t. But as much as he wanted to believe the two had left simply for the music, he didn’t. And he didn’t think the other workers believed it, either. But, since your mom had told the hands she and the guy would be back after a quick dance or two, and since your dad didn’t want anyone to know he doubted her, he sat down, pretended everything was fine – and started drinking.”

She rolled her eyes. “Now there’s the perfect solution. Why didn’t he just go looking for her?”

“Eventually he did. But he didn’t find them at the bar down the street. He found them at the hotel at the edge of town.”

She closed her eyes, pain and sadness washing across her features. “Oh, Mom. What were you thinking?”

The words were whispered so softly he barely heard them. But he heard. Had her mother brought an endless string of men home? Had she left a young girl home alone while went man-hopping?
But however sad or dark the memories were, Tomilola didn’t let them suck her down. With a determined shake of her head, she pulled her shoulders back and opened her eyes to meet his gaze. “Okay, so my mother made a mistake. A big one. But you’re not going to convince me it was okay for dear ol’ dad to throw her out on the street and tell her to get lost because of it. He wants to divorce her. Fine. But they had a kid together. He owed her child’s support, dammit.”

She shifted in the saddle. “Do you have any idea how my mother had to compromise her living standards because she had to support me all by herself? She didn’t have any skills. How the hell did Dad think she was going to put a roof over our heads? Food in our stomach? And later, when she got sick. How did he think she was going to pay for her medical expenses when she had to feed and clothe me?”

Not only had Tomilola had to endure the hardships of poverty, but she blamed her very existence for putting her mother in that ugly situation. Dammit, dammit, dammit.
But he couldn’t back down now. “No one knew better than your father that he made a mistake that night. Unfortunately, he didn’t confront your mother at the hotel, when he was only half-drunk. At that point, maybe he would have been thinking clearly enough to make a better decision. But he drove home instead and proceeded to get rip-roaring drunk.

“By the time your mom wandered home, he was completely out of control. The second she walked through the door, he told her to pack her bags and get out. Told her he didn’t ever want to see her again. Then he stormed into his study, locked the door and drank until he passed out.”

Tomilola looked at him with disbelief and outrage, “And what? He expected her to go and leave her child behind? He thought a mother would walk away from her child because some drunken guy told her to leave?”

“I think it’s fair to say with alcohol in his system, he probably wasn’t thinking beyond his wounded pride or the pain he felt at your mother’s betrayal, period.”

Her lips thinned into a hard line. But she didn’t say anything.

“When your dad came to the next morning, he realized that as mad as he was at your mum he didn’t want her to leave. He’d known when he married her she’d had emotional issues. He’d wanted to work it out with her. But when he went looking for her, hoping she’d ignored his drunken tirade and stayed, he realized not only had she left, she’d taken you with her. Desperate to find you both, he raced to town hoping to track you down at one of the local hotels. Or at the bus stop.”

“But we were already gone.” Her words were whisper soft.

He nodded. “A man at the barber shop had seen your mother hitching a ride out of town with a couple who’d stopped at the petrol station. The man didn’t know the car or the couple in it.. He thought it was probably a couple just passing through on their way to who knew where.”

“Okay, so you have a story that suggests my mum was the one who played around on my dad instead of the other way around. That hardly proves my mum never called my dad after they split up. It doesn’t prove he didn’t refuse to take my mom’s calls.”

“No, it doesn’t. But now that you know your dad’s story, I think these will convince you.” He brought out papers he’d put in there earlier and held them out to her.

“What are those?”

“Read them and find out,”

She looked at the papers as if they might turn into a stake and bite her. But then, determination straightening her spine, she snatched the papers from his hand and gave the top one quick read. “So, it’s some private investigator’s bill made out to my father. So what?”

“It’s a private investigator’s bill from the search your father started the day you and your mother left. A search to find you both.”

She looked back at the bill, studying it more carefully. “Even if my father did look for my mother in the beginning, that doesn’t mean he didn’t change his mind later. My mother told me she didn’t try to contact him until I was about five. By then, Daddy dear might have decided he had better things to spend his money on.. Like the estate,” she said pointedly.

“Look at the dates, Tomilola.”

Her gaze moved to the top of the page.
“You’ll notice the top one is from twenty-two years ago. The month after you and your mother disappeared, to be exact. The second one is from five years later. The third five years after that. And the last one is from last month.”

She flipped through the pages, verifying the dates. But when she looked up there was nothing but stubbornness on her face. “Four bills over twenty-two years doesn’t constitute any great search. So his conscience kicked into gear now and then. That doesn’t mean it was in working order when my mother called for help.”

“God, you’re tough.”

“You bet I am. Watching my mum struggle to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies when I was young, and taking over those chores after my mum got sick, made me that way.”

Yes, it would have. And while he admired the loyalty that made her cling to the belief that her mother had called, that her mother had done everything possible to provide for her daughter, he couldn’t let her go on believing it. “I brought only four bills out this morning, but there’s a stack of them a foot high in your father’s office. Bills from every month for those twenty-two years. I’ll show them to you when we get back if you need more proof.”

“I don’t want to see them,” she snapped.

No, he didn’t imagine she did. But. . . “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to admit your mother wasn’t telling you the whole truth. That your mother might have been responsible for keeping you in such poverty and misery.”

Panic filled her expression. Panic and anger and. . .pain. Tears pooled in her eyes. “Why would she do that? What possible reason could she have to keep my father out of our lives, to withhold medical attention for herself?”

“I don’t know. Like you’ve pointed out on several occasions. I didn’t know your mum. But you did. Can you think of any reason why she wanted to keep your dad out of your lives? Because it seems pretty obvious to me that she did. Why else would she change her name from Adeyemi to Daniels if she wasn’t trying to hide from him?”

“Oh, come on, the change of name doesn’t prove anything. Women change their names when their marriages don’t work out all the time.”

“Back to their maiden names, yes. Or they marry again and take the name of their new spouse. Sometimes women will even take the name of an old spouse, but Daniels isn’t any of those things.”

A little more panic crawled into Tomilola’s expression. “No, it isn’t.”

“Do you have another explanation for the name change?”

She shook her head, confusion and frustration taking over her face. “Until yesterday I would have told you my mother did it to protect me.”

“Protect you from what?”

She grimaced. “Hearing from my own father’s lips that he didn’t want anything to do with us.”

He gave her a questioning look.

“When I first found my mum’s marriage certificate and my birth certificate after her death, discovered that my last name hadn’t been Daniels, I thought she must have realized early on that eventually I’d get old enough to look up my father. So, she’d changed our name to make sure I never found him. That way she could control whether I contacted him or not. Control whether or not I hear him tell us he didn’t want anything to do with us.”

“And now what do you think?”

She looked into the distance her expression getting beaker by the moment. “Now, I don’t know what to think.”

Great, he’d taken a life he suspected had been difficult on the best of days and removed the one pin of stability from it. Now he had to see where the pieces fell.

And pray to God he could put them back together before she decided jumping out of another plane or some deadly stunt was a better way to spend her time. Because he suspected the Angels’ penchant for extreme sports was as much about four troubled young women pushing back at an unfair world as it was about making money for those in need. And that was a dangerous path he didn’t want Wale Adeyemi’s daughter travelling down.

To Be Continued…

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