Sacrilege – Episode 17
© Adeola Nissi
Margaret’s mouth was swollen beyond normal, and her eyes, and several other parts of her body. Rage welled up within Laura as she stared at her sister. She had been mean to her when they met in her office. She had practically mocked her in the face of her pain, but now, Laura could understand why Margaret had acted the way she had acted. She could understand why Margaret would be pissed at the world. Marriage could only be blissful and enjoyable when you are married to the right person, married to the wrong person, Laura could bet that life would be like walking through hell.
Gloria sat on one side of the bed and Jane sat at the other while Laura just stood, Tess on her hips. Laura stared at Gloria for a brief moment. The woman’s strength just never ceased to amaze Laura. How could she even concentrate on Margaret when she found out barely two hours ago that her long lost daughter was very much alive? Gloria had always had the incredible ability to put others first and it was the one thing that had gained her the respect and love of people around her.
Margaret’s eyes roamed the faces of the people seated with her, resting on Laura briefly before shifting to Gloria who looked really worried.
“Oh, Margaret” Gloria moaned on the verge of tears. “Why didn’t you say anything? Your husband did this, didn’t he?” her anger came out undisguised through her voice.
Margaret remained mute for a while, shook her head, wincing when pain stabbed her. “No, don’t move” Jane hastily interjected. “Just… just stay still.” Jane grabbed Margaret’s hand, giving it a little squeeze.
“He didn’t do this” Margaret forced through her swollen lips. Her words were slurred.
“Like hell, he didn’t.” Jane snapped. “You can give that lie to brainless fools, okay, but I know what I saw. This is what happens when you watch too much beauty and the beast, you end up marrying one.”
Margaret shifted her eyes, swallowing the lump in her throat. “It is not his fault” she managed.
Gloria paused. “Whose fault is it then?”
“Mine, I provoked him” three stunned eyes peered into her but she focused on Gloria and Jane. “It’s the truth. I… I knew he doesn’t eat stale food and I still gave him the leftover food from the previous night.”
Gloria stared into the misty eyes of her stepdaughter and nearly started weeping. It was bad enough to see her so battered and bruised, what was worse was realizing that it was not only her body that had been brutalized. Her worth and self-esteem had also been punched out of her by the ruthless fists of her husband. “Oh God! See what he’s done to you”
“What he has been doing for the past two years” Tears stung her eyes and rolled down her bruised cheek as she gazed at Laura again. She hadn’t said anything since she came in, holding Tess. “It is your entire fault” Margaret voiced as tears fell from her eyes. Bitterness shone in her eyes as she held Laura’s gaze. “You should have married Collins” she gasped out. “You are the responsible for this” Laura swallowed. “You are enjoying this, right?”
“Stop!” Jane butted in before Gloria could get a word out. “I won’t let you do this again”
“Why are you not laughing? I am sure you would get a good laugh from watching me suffer. You bailed on the chance to be used as a punching bag. Trust me, it is not much fun”
“Margaret, you have to-”
“I am not happy this happened, Margaret” Laura interjected, talking for the first time since she came in. “Believe it or not, it hurts me to see you like this” she held Margaret’s gaze. “I always wanted you to be happy”
Margaret smiled, her battered face made it seem more like a scowl. “Oh, I can see you hurting. Surely you are in more pain than I am, right now”
“Stop it! Stop this right now” Gloria boomed. It was exhausting seeing sisters beat themselves over a man who is completely worthless. For how long would people keep throwing blames? She still could not believe she had seen her daughter after so many years, still couldn’t believe she could set her eyes on the only child her womb had produced. It was bad enough that she had to be in a hospital when all she wanted was some time alone with her daughter, the one thing she wouldn’t have is to have Margaret and Laura fight again. She was just too exhausted.
“You are not going to do this anymore, do you understand?” Gloria bellowed angrily. “Margaret, I know you are hurting but you should learn to take responsibility of your actions. You have Tess to think about, you can’t afford to always create this negative energy around her” she snapped. We would leave you two alone now and I want you to settle whatever dispute you have. Talk if that would make you feel better but resolve it. We have to move past this; you two are sisters for God’s sake”
Silence descended as Gloria pushed none too gently off the bed, heading out of the room. “Don’t kill each other please, you are better off to me fighting than dead” Jane grinned at her sisters, stood and plucked Tess from Laura’s arms, following Gloria out of the room. Laura swallowed as the door closed, leaving her alone with Margaret.
Gloria stood in the waiting room. She dialed Frank’s number. Where on earth was he? She needed to leave, wanted to dash to the nearest church where she could be alone with God to offer Him her tears of appreciation. She had hoped. Prayed. God knows she had fasted on countless occasions. All in the hope to set her eyes on her daughter before she died. Now she had her answer. Seeing her was like a dream. She still could not believe it herself. If Laura hadn’t been there, Gloria was sure she would think she had imagined it all. It seemed surreal.
Now more than ever, she wanted to know what Frank had to do with anything regarding Teju. This Teju was her daughter! Her blood daughter. Her Atinuke. If Frank had anything to do with her negatively, Gloria was not sure she would be able to forgive him. She took off her phone from her ear. His number was not going through. She dialed Frank’s number again in frustration. “How long will it take him to get here?” her anger was palpable as she glanced at Jane playing with her niece. Her face softened a bit. She had missed this chance. Chance to watch her Atinuke as she grew. Chance to witness her daughter’s first steps, hear her first words, feed her when she was hungry, take her to school and help with her assignments. She had missed it all. Grief overtook her until her eyes were misty with unshed tears.
“Mother?” Jane called, a frown on her face.
Gloria blinked and shook her head, sending a watery dismissing smile Jane’s way. She sat and lifted Tess onto her lap, imagining what it would have been like to have done the same for Teju… for her Atinuke. She dropped her phone on the chair and smile playing on her face as Tess toyed with her necklace, tugging it, innocent curiosity clouding her face.
A strange hush suddenly engulfed the waiting room, followed by muffled gasps, whispers and then murmuring. Gloria was so engrossed in Tess that she did not even notice the change in atmosphere until she heard Jane’s strangled gasp.
“Oh God, no…” Jane shot to her feet.
Gloria turned her head, still smiling. The smile vanished as she caught the expression in Jane’s eyes. “Jane? What’s wrong?”
Jane turned to her, tears in her eyes. She shook her head. “Oh mother… please tell me… tell me that’s not… that’s not…” her voice broke and shook uncontrollably as she turned away, staring at something ahead as she hugged herself.
Suddenly, Gloria noticed that everyone in the waiting room was also looking in the same direction. Horror written all over their faces, murmuring one to another. Chancing a look, Gloria forced her eyes towards the object of their attention.
It was a flat screen television. Images flashed around as her heart slammed wildly against her chest interrupting the functioning of her eyes. She shot to her feet almost toppling Tess and she grabbed her awkwardly with hands that shook wildly. A strangled cry escaped her lips as she stared at the breaking news.
Tito’s hands batted furiously at the keyboard of her PC. The light from her system shone in her eyes, heightening the pain and the fury in them. It felt good to write. It felt good to channel the pain and anger she was feeling now through her fingers until she had words the semblance of what she was feeling inside all sprawled on her screen. But it would never match. Her pain was too heavy to sit on the fragile screen of her laptop. Tito had always said that writers were the saddest and loneliest people in the world, she always said that the storyline of their lives was nothing like the smooth and interesting ones they tried to portray in their writings and she surely was living the life. Being a fiction writer surely did require a form of miserability.
Her hand shot out and grabbed what was left of her already cold coffee. Tossing it back, it joined the ocean of coffee flowing in her tummy. With a flick of her hand, the cup joined the seven empty cups of coffee on the floor and her hands resumed typing. She had been at it for hours. She really should stop but she didn’t think she would stop anytime soon. Not with the pain in her heart still burning bright red. Her hands ached, her back and her neck were practically at breaking point and she could vividly hear her eyes screaming for sleep. Still, Tito persisted, eyes strained, fingers bumping on keypads.
Sun streaked in from the window of the hotel room she had lodged in a little past midnight, telling her that she had been typing now for more than six hours. Of course, how couldn’t she have figured it out? She and Laura had the same useless method of getting over pain. They thought they could get over it by overworking themselves out of it. She had thought it was a family thing, she couldn’t have been more correct. How was she to know that her father had kept way too many secrets from her?
Writing had initially been a hobby. Something she fell back on to pass the time, then it had transcended into something else… something more intense. It was her anchor. And every time she felt this kind of blinding pain… pain that engulfed her entire senses until it was all she could breathe out, she always fell back to writing. She could switch off from her pain and enter a world of fantasy. A world that held no surprises and impromptu life alterations… a world that was completely under the control of her deft little fingers. In a way, it was like having a diary. But unlike a diary, in writing, every character carried a piece of her, making her into a puzzle, someone who couldn’t easily be understood. How could she find it in her heart to hate Teju? The girl obviously had her share of heartbreaks. Even now, as she wrote ‘Lila’s Betrayal’, she could see her pain in this scene; feel the tension oozing from her fingers.
Her mind went back to the previous night. In her entire life, Tito had never been so shocked. She still could not believe that Mark Johnson did all the things he confessed to, last night. This was her dad. The man she had known all her life. The man who had singlehandedly raised her. He had played the role of her father, her mother and most of all, her confidant. With him, she could never be guarded. She could tell him anything, go with him anywhere and not feel awkward. She had told him immediately she saw her period. It had been embarrassing, Tito had almost wished she had a motherly figure in her life but her dad had made it seem like nothing. He had explained everything she needed to know to her and made her a special meal with more than enough chicken laps to leave her teeth aching for several weeks. She had told him every time she had a crush, told him every time she fell in love. Even times she hadn’t told him things, he had figured them out. She had made mistakes, grievous mistakes like losing her virginity at the age of eighteen to a guy she thought genuinely loved her. She hadn’t been able to forgive herself. Tito had hidden it from her father, but he had found out. She had thought he would never forgive her for neglecting all he had taught her on self-preservation but after the initial disappointment, it was clear that his love was all forgiving. He had forgiven her and loved her unconditionally. He had laughed with her through her achievements, wiped her tears through every heartbreak. Every time her heart was smashed into pieces in the hands of men and she felt small and unsure of herself, always thinking it was all her fault, her father had been her anchor. Even when she had lost faith in love, lost faith in all men, her father was the only encouragement she had. Seeing him showed her that there was still an amazingly priceless man in the world.
He had been there for her, always there. He and Laura were the two souls she had dearest to her heart. But, she realized bitterly, she had never been there for her father. The revelation of the previous night hurt her beyond words, but for reasons totally different from what would be the natural reaction. As she had listened behind the door to the words of her own father, as he unburdened to Laura, she had heard much more than the words coming out of his mouth. She had heard his pain. The pain that followed every word. The pain that hung to every sentence he uttered. How had she been blind to it? How had her father shielded so much of himself that she hadn’t glimpsed that part of him?
She had suspected that her father was still hung up on someone from his past. She knew it wasn’t her mother and was not hurt by it. She knew nothing about her mother. She had teased him about it, trying to get a bit of gist when he totally refused her desire for him to get married. She had wanted him to get married, to find a woman to make him very happy, to give him all the love he deserved because God knew he didn’t deserve to live a lonely life. But he hadn’t divulged any secret. He told her that she was his happiness. How was she to know that while he had been wiping her tears, he also cried in secret? Bled for the mistakes he had made and was yet to forgive himself for.
Tito wiped at the tears that sipped out of her eyes. Tears for her father. Tears for the pain he had carefully covered up with smiles for years. Her phone vibrated distracting her, she blinked and on cue, her finger poked out and slid the caller towards the red circle. Her phone read sixty two missed calls. Excellent! Her hand stretched automatically to pick her coffee only to realize she was all out. She couldn’t call for the ninth cup of coffee, they’d definitely think she was addicted or something – that is if they didn’t think so already. She swallowed her saliva, feeling it slip down her throat.
She stared at the screen and frowned as she realized that she had typed several lines of gibberish. Tito hit her hand in fury against the backspace, wiping off lines of incoherent words. Her eyes raked over the words on the screen, seeing where she left off with the dialogue, her hand poised on the keyboard. Her brain was suddenly blank. She could not think of any sensible thing to write. She had effectively drained herself.
Closing the laptop with more force than was required, she pushed herself to a lying position. Her taut muscles protested then started to relax. Images ran around her closed eyes, making her temples throb. Her phone started ringing again and this time Tito groaned out loud. “Oh, for God’s sake! Can’t you all just leave me alone?” she yelled into the empty room. During the first hours of the morning, her dad had called continuously, over and over again but she had refused to pick up. How could she? She had no idea of what she would say to him. She was mad at him, she was mad at herself. Heck, she was mad at everyone. Now, for the past few hours, Laura had also called endlessly and then Jane. Of course, she hadn’t picked up any call, neither had she even attempted to check on the various message notifications that rolled in. She’d rather be alone to sort out this entire mess with herself first. It was the reason she had dashed home from her father’s place in the middle of the night, grabbed her system and made for a conspicuous hotel where she could be all by herself without being disturbed.
Grabbing the phone, her finger stretched out to end the call but she had to pause when she saw the caller. Gloria? She pushed to a sitting position as fear reared up in her. Could something have happened? Was that why people had been calling her and she refused to pick? Pushing down her fears, she slid the caller towards the green circle.
“Hello” Tito breathed cautiously into the phone.
“Oh, Tito… where are you?” Tito senses the panic in the voice. She sensed the pain. She sensed the tears.
“Laura?” Her voice shook as she pushed out of the hotel bed. Laura was using Gloria’s phone? She had a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach. “What is it?”
“It’s… it’s…” Laura’s voice broke. “Oh Tito”
“What is going on?” Tito snapped. The panic in Laura’s voice had fear engulfing Tito.
“You… you have to come… to the hospital”
“What? For what?” tears danced in Tito’s eyes as her feet grew cold. “Answer me, Laura”
There was silence on Laura’s end, but Tito could hear the panic. She could almost hold it. It was there in Laura’s irregular breathing. It was there in the silence that often speaks louder than words. It was there in the fast racing of her own heart. “There’s been an accident” Laura finally dropped.
Blood drained from Tito’s face. Strange cold overtook her and she hugged herself with her free hand. The hand holding the phone shook wildly. “Who is it?” her voice came out in a semblance of calm.
“Just tell me”
“It’s our dads… oh Tito… our dads”
To be continued