Sacrilege – Episode 11
© Adeola Nissi
Tito pushed open the door of her apartment. Men! She thought in annoyance, they are just stupid womanizing idiots. And to her, Chris topped that list. Of course, he would have a tall, fair Barbie-like hussy in his house, so late at night. No doubt he had another one lined up for tomorrow and every day after that. And to think I was about apologizing for calling a spade a spade… Tito twisted her mouth as she slammed the door. “Laura” she called. Definitely, a little ‘girls time’ would ward off her irritation.
Stepping out of her shoes, she peeped into the kitchen, Laura wasn’t there. “Laura?” She frowned as she found the bathroom empty. Where was Laura? Could she be out for a walk at this time? Or…
Tito’s eyes caught something on the floor and her heart practically stopped. She rushed forward and picked the open diary, clearly horrified. How had she been so careless? She had only been able to read a few pages. Though she despised that Teju girl, the few pages she read forced her to feel a little pity for the girl. ‘But that still doesn’t justify what she did to my cousin’s she had mentally insisted at the time.
Now, her eyes scanned the open page that Laura had obviously read, reading the words that seemed to have been scribbled in pain. Every line had her brows creezing in a frown. Unable to take any more, she slammed the diary shut, staring in horror. It is either Tito wasn’t using her eyes properly or Teju was seriously insane for suggesting that she was raped by…
Tito shook her head. No! Teju had to be insane.
Frank Johnson changed the station to a news station with the TV remote, crossing his legs on the centre table. He heard the door behind him open without moving a muscle. His eyes remained glued to the TV as Gloria walked in. Gloria stood poised for a few seconds staring at her husband’s back. “I’m sorry I took so long” she quickly muttered as she marched forward.
“You sure took your time.”
Gloria took a deep breath as she came in front of her husband, giving him a small apologetic smile. “I’m so sorry, there were too many customers at the shop today; I couldn’t get here any faster.” she lied.
“I can imagine” Frank said, not for once taking his eyes off the TV screen.
Gloria shifted uncomfortably. “I’m sorry.” She sat on the armrest of the chair, giving her husband a kiss on the cheek and a head rub. He always loved that, it was a tool she always used that often won her his forgiveness. “Have you eaten?” she mouthed, caressing his head in small circular massages. “I’d fix you something really nice now” she said without waiting for his answer, kissed his cheek and stood, heading straight for the kitchen.
“How is she?”
Gloria’s feet pulled to a halt halfway through. Her heart raced as she stood still, counting the seconds in her head before turning back to stare at her husband. The TV still had his attention. “How is who?”
Frank finally turned to her, giving her an ironic look. “You really think you can fool me? I know you haven’t been in your shop all day and there is only one person who can make you lie to me”
Gloria swallowed as she backtracked towards her husband. Her face held remorse. “I’m sorry, honey. I… I couldn’t help it.”
Frank turned his face away from her and Gloria took a deep breath, going on her knees before him. “Darling… You know me, right? I can’t keep calm when someone I care about is in pain. I know you are at odds with Laura now but now is the time she needs all the love she can get.”
Frank nodded. “You’d go against me, your husband, for a girl who clearly doesn’t have any regard for me or you for that matter.”
Gloria smiled softly. “Love is unconditional” she answered. “She might act nonchalant but I know what’s in her heart. I also do it all for you. I know you claim not to care now but the truth is you do care. A father cannot completely close his eyes to his daughter’s pain”
Frank stared at her for a while then averted his gaze. He blinked as silence reigned for a while. “How is she?”
Gloria felt a small thrill within her. Initially, she had thought the question was just to taunt her, but seeing that Frank was letting his guard down by showing that he still cared about his daughter, Gloria felt a small sense of fulfillment, like she had just won a contest. She stood and sat beside Frank, leaning against him slightly. “She is devastated” she said, her face registering sadness as she remembered all that had happened during the day. It had been so heartbreaking to see her stepdaughter in such a dejected state. Laura had always been a spirited young woman, always bubbling with life and vigor. She was an emotional being and always followed her heart, obviously why she was so pained by her husband’s betrayal. “She seems to have lost her fire”
Frank’s lips thinned as his body tensed. “That b******” his spat out through clenched teeth. “If only she had listened…”
Gloria exhaled. “She was in love, Frank, you can hardly blame people where their heart is concerned.”
“Oh well, see where her heart has led her to” he boomed angrily, pushing out of the chair and going to look out the window. “The heart is to be led, not followed”
Gloria sighed, standing also and moving to her husband. She wrapped her hands around him from behind, resting her head on his back. “You should see her, honey” she whispered. “I’m sure she would be very happy to see you” Frank grunted. Gloria smiled into his back, giving his chest a playful caress. “You can’t deny you want to see her too”
Frank remained silent for a moment. “Where is she?” he finally asked. Gloria exhaled, feeling as satisfied as though she had just been handed a contract worth millions.
Looking up into her husband’s eye, she grinned. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Deolu’s canvassed feet hit the ground in rhythmic thuds as he jugged along the darkened street. Sweat trickled down his back, making a wet patch on his clingy top. Sweat glistened on his face as he jugged along, pushing himself beyond his limit. His heart raced along with his foot as his mind took a slow trek along the panes of his problems.
Deolu had never felt as lonely as he had been feeling for the past few days. It was like he was suddenly plunged into a different planet to face the darkness of solitude all alone. He had always loved his space but now, he felt utterly and completely alone. No one was ready to give him a listening ear. No one was ready to understand or even forgive him. But who was he to complain when he had created this mess himself.
The two women he cared about the most, he had hurt the most. Laura was the one person who held his heart, the one person he could tell his deepest secrets to. She was the person who could be three people at once – his mother, friend and lover all at the same time, but with one stupid act, he had killed all three personalities, creating a new one which was a complete stranger to him. But she wasn’t the only person he had hurt. He had hurt Teju too. He had hurt her beyond measure. For someone who had gone through a lot, he shouldn’t have given her such an irrevocable burden. He had been begging Laura for forgiveness. His phone’s inbox was filled with delivered and undelivered messages sent to Laura and even one he sent to Teju after she left the house the previous day. He knew he should give Laura space, she definitely needed some peace and quiet to process all that happened. But he was scared that every day that passed drew her farther and farther away from him. He feared that even when Laura and Teju found it in their hearts to forgive him, he would still be unable to do the most important thing which is to forgive himself.
Unable to push his numb feet for much longer, Deolu slowed, dropping his pace gradually until he started walking again, his heart still skipping from the effect of the jug. His feet, light from jugging, moved of their own accord as he mopped his face with a small towel. People were scanty on the dark street as many people had retired to their respective homes. He walked along as his heart slowed, willing the semblance of peace to wash away his anxieties. He had always loved the dark, always felt calm with the lights out, a direct opposite of Laura who was scared of the dark. A year into the marriage, he would always wait for her to fall asleep before turning off the lights, he remembered with a smile. She couldn’t sleep with the lights off and he couldn’t sleep with the lights on. They had seemed like an unbalanced equation at first, but gradually, they began to adjust. Both wanting the convenience of the other, they had learnt to sleep with or without light until they discovered the adjustable lighting.
With Laura, Deolu had learnt the true definition of love. He had learnt to understand that although love was a feeling that comes from within, love was also a choice. Because there had been times when frustration was practically draining out the love in his home but together, they had held strong, choosing to love each other despite the odds.
Deolu came to a halt in front of a moderately large school. The interesting play of colours on the swings and slides of the playground caught his attention. He could try to avoid it but the fact was that he was about to be a father. However odd the circumstances were, it wouldn’t change the fact that a child would be calling him daddy in a few months. This brought mixed feelings. How were they going to manage the situation so it wouldn’t affect the child? Would Laura accept his child with Teju especially when she had none of her own? Deolu exhaled, running his hands over his head.
Deolu turned his head in the direction of the voice. An aged man, probably in his late fifties walked out of the school towards him, holding a torch. His slightly protruding belly was well rounded. “One’s got to keep in shape.” Deolu answered as the man drew near.
The man shrugged. “I’ve always found it to be a waste of strength and energy. I mean, why jug when all you end up with are aching thighs and a sweaty body?”
Deolu chuckled slightly, probably for the first time in almost two weeks. “No pain, no gain is the theory” he answered. The man smiled back, coming to stand beside Deolu. With the uniform, Deolu could tell he was a security man.
The man nodded, smiling. “It’s a good night to be out jugging though, it is a beautiful one” Deolu wasn’t sure he agreed with that. Every night without Laura couldn’t be beautiful. “You plan on bringing your child here?” he asked, nodding at the school which had Deolu’s attention some seconds back. “It’s a good school”
Deolu felt his heart skip. “No child yet.”
“Oh” was all the man said. Deolu turned to the street, feeling an invisible weight on his shoulders at the thought of going back home to his empty house. “Wife’s not home?” Deolu’s eyes snapped to the aged man who merely nodded at his ring finger. “I don’t think you would be out at this time if she were home.”
Deolu swallowed. “She’s not home.”
The man stared at Deolu who had his gaze fixed on the street. He noted the pain in his eyes as he spoke and knew from experience what that expression meant. “Have you apologized?”
Deolu looked at him, puzzled. “Why do you think I need to?” he asked, frowning at the man. He didn’t like the direction of the discussion.
The man laughed gently. “Some things come with age, son. I can recognize guilt when I see it, especially since I had to deal with it myself at a point in my life.” Deolu swallowed, looking away. “Want to tell me what you did?” Deolu looked at him. “I’ve been told I have a good listening ear”
Deolu stared at the kind smiling face of the man. It was the most conversation he has had in days, and definitely the weirdest. Chris, for some reasons have decided to avoid him just when he needed a friend. Though he knew he was guilty, he really needed a friend now. But no friend was there. Now, here was a man, a stranger, definitely old enough to be his father, who was interested in listening to him… He shook his head at the irony. “I’m sure you have two, sir” he said, smiling at the man.
The man grinned. “Want to test run them?”
The man had such a honest look on his face that suddenly, Deolu wanted to tell him everything. It didn’t matter that he was just meeting him for the first time, Deolu just wanted to be heard. He sighed. “I drove away my happiness and invited sadness into my life, that’s what I did” he mouthed, staring at the street, seeing nothing but his shattered life. “It is like I knowingly walked into a quicksand with no way of getting out” the old man kept quiet, waiting. When Deolu said nothing, he spoke.
“You are still talking in riddles.”
Deolu swallowed. “I broke our wedding vows” Deolu said bitterly, sinking his hands into his pockets. “I brought pain into the lives of two women I love so much.” Deolu turned to give the man an earnest look. “Tell me sir, how do I build back a home I demolished with my own hands?”
“With the same vigor with which you built it at first” the man answered after a brief pause. Placing a gentle hand on Deolu’s shoulder, he said with all seriousness. “Listen son, mistakes are bound to happen but what you do afterwards is what matters. You have to stop beating yourself up over this, it is not going to solve anything. Remorse is good, but you have to accept what you’ve done it you are ever going to make amends.” he said. “When you trip and fall, you don’t stay on the ground, chastising yourself, no! You pull yourself back up and dust off the dirt”
“But there would still be some dust that just won’t go away”
The man smiled. “Not if you have a good soap to wash it clean.” Deolu took a deep breath. “Listen son. You destroyed your marriage, it is up to you to build it back again. It would be harder, there would be so much you have to contend with, but just like in construction. The harder the ground, the stronger the house.” Deolu swallowed. “You have the manual, son. The building plans are with you. No one knows your wife more than you. Woo her again, rekindle the spark,” he nodded, “it would be hard, anyone that says you’d have it easy is dishing you fables. You’d face serious trust issues but if you pull through successfully, chances are your family would be stronger than before.” the man turned and took a step away from Deolu as though he was about leaving. “But son, you would need a good engineer to oversee and pilot this reconstruction” he smiled. “Go to God, with Him, you can’t go wrong”
Deolu stared at the man, as the words resonated in his heart. His curiosity piqued, he frowned. “I never got your name sir”
The man smiled. “Mr Ola.” he answered shortly. “I have to get back”
Deolu nodded. He had just found a friend. “Thank you sir” and he was indeed grateful. “Can I see you here, next time?”
Mr Ola smiled. “I’d be here, whenever you need me” with that, he walked away.
Laura stared at the moderately sized house before her, remembering the last time she walked out of it like she remembered her own name. she had thought it was the last time she would be stepping foot here, but here she was, standing with clenched fists at the entrance of the same house that sent her out.
Raising her hand, she banged on the door. Without waiting, she banged again, feeling the door shake. Her anger boiled in her like a pot of boiling water, threatening to spill over. “The door was yanked open and she came face to face with Gloria. “Laura! What are you doing here? Is something wrong?” she gasped out.
Laura pushed past her into the house. “Where is your husband?” Laura demanded as she walked into the familiar sitting room where she had spent most of her growing years. Swallowing, her eyes searched. “Where is he?” she bellowed.
A door opened and a familiar face walked out, towards the sitting room. She had seen the exact face and shape just hours ago but everything in her knew she hadn’t seen this particular person in years. It had been years, more than six years since Laura last saw her father. She had anticipated this reunion but it never occurred to her that it would be under this awkward circumstance.
Laura watched as he took unhurried steps towards the sitting area. He had the exact look of Tito’s father, but Laura would always be able to differentiate the two identical brothers. Maybe it was the constant cold look that never seemed to leave her father’s eyes, or the insincere smile that hung to his mouth as he stared at her now. “Finally, the prodigal daughter is back”he finally said into the silence.
“I am not your daughter” Laura snarled at her father with utmost disgust as he sat on the couch. “How could you? How could you do that to Teju?”
Mr Johnson frowned. “Who is Teju?”
“What’s going on, Laura?” Gloria asked, looking confused.
“So you don’t know Teju now, right?” Laura yelled. “You don’t know the name of the woman you raped?”
Silence greeted the words as two stunned faces stared back at Laura. “Raped?” Gloria gasped, coming to stand in front of Laura. Her face looked pale. “What are you saying?” her pale face turned to her husband. “What is she talking about?”
Mr Johnson looked completely bumused and Laura pushed her hand furiously into the pocket of her jean, removing her phone. She had snapped the page on the diary before leaving Tito’s place, knowing this might happen. Of course, he would deny it, she thought angrily. Opening the picture, she gave it to Gloria who took it with shaky fingers. Silence reigned as Gloria stared at the phone, her face registering horror. “So, ‘daddy’, Laura called. “Can you please explain that?”
Gloria stared at her husband in horror. “Give me that” he said, grabbing the phone from her hand. He stared at the words, his expression not flickering for a second.
“Teju wrote that she was raped by a 57 years old Mr Johnson and as much as i know there are probably thousands of 57 years old Mr Johnson’s out there, I only find it funny that my father happened to be one of them?” Laura ranted, pacing slightly. She came to a halt as her father pushed to his feet. “Why did you do it, dad? Are you also responsible for that pregnancy she is carrying?” Laura couldn’t wrap her head around it all. If her father raped Teju, going by the date, he could be responsible for the pregnancy. But if that’s the case, how come Deolu was claiming responsibility?
Mr Johnson gave Laura a firm stare. “I can see you are very quick to make me into a monster” he mouthed. “But I repeat, I don’t know any Teju”
Laura laughed. “Of course, you don’t” how convenient.
“You seem to forget that I’m not the only 57 years old Mr Johnson in your life. Why don’t you ask the other”
Laura froze as her father’s words drifted in the air. Gloria stood poised in confusion. “My uncle?” she laughed weirdly. “Of course not. He can never do a thing like that”
“Can’t he?” Frank raised his brow. “Why don’t you ask him?” Laura frowned in confusion. “Isn’t it odd that your uncle went on a trip a month after the date on this?” he gestured with the phone still in his hand.
“He was on a business trip” Laura said, frowning.
“Was he?” Frank smiled.
Laura shook her head. She would not let her father put insane thoughts in her head. Her uncle has been the fatherly figure she has had. Not just a father but a friend. He was her idea of perfection. He would never do this. Mark Johnson would never do this!
Frank sat, picking the TV remote. “Why not ask him. I wouldn’t be surprised, it’s not his first time.” he glanced at Laura’s pale face with a smile. “The devil was once an angel, Laura. Remember that”
To be continued