A Story Written by Omolola…
Demola rode quietly beside Tomilola. They were in the open now. The morning was quickly warming up as the sun rose steadily above the horizon.
“I thought you’d like it here. It’s one of my favourite spots. Was one of your dad’s, too.”
She grimaced. “Can we not talk about him today?”
His gut clenched. The pleasant ride was over. “Unfortunately, we need to talk about him. Him and your mom.”
Her gaze snapped back to him, her lips pressed into a thin, hard line. “You jerk. You didn’t bring me out here for fresh air. You brought me out here to ambush me.”
“I brought you out here because I thought you might enjoy some fresh air while we talked.” She snorted at his excuse.
He sighed. “Fine. I ambushed you. But, this is a mountain we have to get over. And it’s been my experience that when you’re facing something unpleasant, sooner is better than later.”
“Not today it isn’t.”
“Running away won’t make the problem disappear.”
She shot him a black scowl. “No. But it might make you disappear.” She turned to leave.
“An ambush is used when you want to take something from someone or hurt them. I don’t want to do either. But we have some hard things to talk about, and I need you to stay around while we do. So yes, I stacked the deck in my favor. Shoot me.”
“I told you yesterday I didn’t want you trying to justify my father to me. I haven’t changed my mind.”
“I’m not going to justify anyone to you. I’m simply going to relate the story your father told me about what happened twenty-two years ago. What you want to do with that information is up to you.”
“I already know what happened. On a dark, rainy night, my father kicked my mother and me out of his house and told her he never wanted to see us again.”
“Correction, your father kicked your mother out, he never intended she should take you with her. And. . .”
“And you think that’s okay? A man kicking his wife out of their house in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on her back?” Outrage sounded in her voice. Outrage she had every right to feel.
“No, I don’t. It was a bad decision. One made in a drunken rage. One your father regretted every day of his life from that night forward.”
“Oh, please. If the man regretted his actions, he had plenty of opportunity to make up for them. Do you have any idea how many times my mother called him, asking for help?”
This was the lie at the center of Tomilola’s anger for her father. The misconception he had to break. The misconception that was going to send her world spinning. He braced himself for the fight and shook his head. “She never called, Tomilola. That’s what I was trying to tell you in the truck yesterday when you cut me off. After your mother took you that night and left, your father never heard from her again.”
“That’s a lie. She called. Time and time again, asking for money. Asking for help. And Wale Adeyemi always told her to get lost.”
“Were you ever in the room when she called? Did you over hear the calls? Or did she just tell you about them?”
“Of course I heard them.” Righteous indignation sounded in her voice.
But he suspected she’d answered more out of anger and reflex than truth. “Are you sure? Think hard.”
She sent him another fuming stare, but he could see the doubt sweeping into her thoughts.
He let her ponder a bit, praying her mother hadn’t put on some charade where she’d talked into a phone with God knew whom or what on the other end, making her daughter think she was talking to her dad. It would be a harder lie to combat. Not that he couldn’t combat it. But he’d like to use as small a hammer as possible.
He sat quietly, the sound of grass and the soft creak of leather wafting on the warming breeze. A hawk’s lonely cry drifted down from the clear blue sky. He glanced up, spotting the majestic bird gliding playfully on the thermals overhead.
Tomilola followed his gaze, spotting the bird immediately. She smiled, a smile that momentarily erased the shadows from her eyes. The hawk suddenly dove toward the ground, his beak leading the way, his wings tucked tight against his body. Just before reaching the grass, he flared his wings and reached forward with his feet. A split second later he was winging toward the sky again, a mouse dangling helplessly from deadly claws.
Tomilola lowered her gaze to his, the shadows flitting back into her eyes. “It’s never quite as idyllic as we want to believe, is it?”
He shook his head. “No.”
She exhaled a long sigh. “I don’t actually remember if I heard any of my mother’s calls or not. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t. My mother died seven years ago, and we’d given up on my father coming to our aid a couple years before that. It was a long time ago. But what could possibly have been the point of her lying to me? She needed help. Desperately. We needed help. Why wouldn’t she have called?”
“I don’t know. But from what your dad told me your mom had issues. Ones your dad said kept her from thinking rationally sometimes.”
Pain and anger slashed across her face. “She might have had ‘issues.’ And she might not have always thought ‘rationally,’ but she wasn’t delusional, for pity’s sake. She was together enough that she never turned back on her little girl. Unlike the man you’re trying to paint as a bloody saint.”
“I’m not trying to paint anyone as a saint Least of all your father. God knows, he’d turn over in his grave if he thought I was. I’m just trying to tell his side of the story.”
“Then tell it. But don’t expect me to believe every word out of your mouth.”
“All I’m asking is that you listen with an open mind.”
“Fine, my mind is open.”
If the underlying anger in her words was any indication, her mind wasn’t open. But since it was likely all he’d get, he’d best get to it. “Did your mother ever tell you why he threw her off the estate?”
Her lips twisted in disgust. “Said he found someone new. Someone younger, prettier. Someone without a toddler to take care of.” Pain sounded in her words as she voiced her belief that her father didn’t want her. He locked his gaze on hers. “Your father never considered you anything but the most wonderful of gifts, Tomilola. Never.”
Tears gathered in her eyes. “How would you know? You weren’t. . .”
“No. I wasn’t there. But I know because I saw the pain and longing in your dad’s eyes every time he spoke of you. Heard the pride in his voice when he’d tell one of the memories he had of you. Memories that were old and few, but more precious to him than anything in this world.”
More moisture filled her eyes, but she didn’t let the tears fall. She might want to believe her father had missed her. But the anger underneath those tears told him she didn’t. Not yet. And it would take a lot more talking on Demola’s part before she’d even consider opening her mind. “It wasn’t your father who found someone new, Tomilola. It was your mother.”
“Oh, come on, you can come up with something more original than just flipping the story around, can’t you?”
“Yeah, I probably could if I was making it up. But I’m not making it up. I’m going to tell you exactly what your father told me. No embellishments to make your father sound more innocent. No assumptions about what I think anyone was thinking that night. You’ll have to decide for yourself what you want to believe and what you don’t.”
“Fine. So my mother found someone new Who was that?” Pure sarcasm sounded in her voice.
“I don’t know his name. He was one of your father’s workers.”
“That’s convenient for the story.”
He ignored the comment and pushed on. “It was a Saturday night and your father had let half the workers go early so they could enjoy themselves while he worked late with the other half. When he finally got home, he found you in your crib, Mariam, the housekeeper, watching you, and your mother gone. When he asked Mariam where your mother was, she said she’d headed to town with the first half of the workers. He wasn’t worried at first, too worried, anyway. It wasn’t the first time your mother had gotten impatient with him for being late and headed into town early to drink and dance with some of the workers.”
Her lips pressed into a thin line.
Did that mean she recognized the behavior? And didn’t approve? Wale had said Nike was a big party girl. That she craved attention. Especially male attention. There was no reason that would have changed after she left Wale. In fact, it very possibly could have gotten worse.
But speculating about what Tomilola was thinking wouldn’t get him anywhere. “When he got to the bar, your mom wasn’t there. Just a bunch of guys doing their best to avoid your dad. When he finally pinned one down, the man reluctantly told him your mom had left with one of the new workers. Supposedly just to check out a bar farther down the street, one that played disco instead of rock music.
To Be Continued…