Sacrilege – Episode 12
© Adeola Nissi
Tito could not tell just for how long she sat in the room, digesting the content of the diary. The bed caved in under her weight as she sat, frozen to the spot. After that first page which had set her brain on overdrive, she had known she had to go through the entire content of the book. It was the most horrific crap she had ever read in the history of her life. Never ever had she imagined that something so vile could be documented in an innocent looking diary. Catherine had said that the best friend of every lonely woman is a diary but now, Tito could truly see the truth in that statement. Tito could vouch that Teju communicated more with her diary that she even talked to her supposed best-friend – Deolu. But as she sat, staring in openmouthed horrified wonder at the book in her hand, closing it as she read the last word, her thoughts were all sorts of shrewd. Her face had lost all trace of colour as she raised her eyes to stare pale-faced at nothing in particular. She was forced to think the things written in the book were make believes because she could not bring herself to believe half of the things she found in it. From what she read, there were two Mr. Johnsons at work in Teju’s life but she’d be damned if she would assume the men were by any chance related to her.
A knock came on the door forcing her out of her vile thoughts, and her head snapped up. Laura was the first thought that came to her mind as she glanced at the clock, but then, Laura wouldn’t really knock. She moved to the window, glancing out. Her heart skipped a bit. Reading about the devil…
Teju couldn’t have chosen to appear at a better time, she might as well give answers to the questions floating around Tito’s head before it explodes. Thinking for a second, Tito quickly moved to the bed, picked the diary and dumped it in the wardrobe as her brain worked. Pinching back colour to her face, she sat on the bed, leaning against the headboard. The knock came again and she exhaled slowly. “The door is not locked” she pitched assuming a nonchalant look.
The door creaked open and Teju filled the doorway. Her impressive height, combined with the heels she had on made her tower over Tito who sat cross-legged on the bed, her back against the headboard. Tito slid Teju a look as a faint smile coated her lips. “You sure took your time” she murmured.
Teju looked upset as she shifted. “I am going to have you arrested, you swine” Teju barked. “How dare you burgle my house?”
Tito frowned, staring behind Teju. “I don’t see the cops, where are they?”
“I need my things back,” Teju snapped.
Tito inclined her head, raising her brow. “Oh, your documents? They are safe.”
Teju swallowed as she blinked. “And my diary?”
Tito frowned. “Diary? What diary?” Teju opened her mouth to say something. “Oh, that diary!” Tito suddenly exclaimed like she was just comprehending the question. “Small little thing; I haven’t even read it.”
A wave of relief washed over Teju’s face as she rested her body weight on one leg. “Really?” Tito slanted her an ironic look that had Teju standing straighter. “You unscrupulous swine.”
“Whatever” Already done with the dilly dally, Tito pulled to her feet. “Now that you are here, you might as well explain the rubbish you wrote in that book.”
“I owe you no explanation. I didn’t ask you to read it” Teju pointed out.
“You didn’t ask me not to” Tito retorted.
“It is my personal belonging, containing private information, no one asked you to burgle my house, destroy my apartment and take something that is not yours” Teju pitched.
“No one asked you to burgle my cousin’s home, destroy her home and take a husband that is clearly not yours, but you did” Tito countered with a forced smile. “Or maybe someone did…” she advanced, closing in on Teju. “Maybe someone ‘did’ ask you to do all these”
Teju paled. “What are you talking about?” Irrespective of what Mr. Johnson had told her, she was so scared and sad that this was happening. She didn’t bargain for this! God knows she never imagined her life would turn to a football, being tossed around like an aimless piece of trash. Tito had obviously read everything in her diary so there was nothing to hide. And even as Tito tried to put a brave front, Teju could see the anxiety and agitation that was clearly hidden behind the bravado.
“What? I am talking about the child you are forcing on Deolu” Tito yelled, feeling her blood boil as she paced to the bed and back to stand in front of Teju again. “How could you? I thought you claim Deolu is your best friend” Tito looked bewildered. “How can you destroy his happiness over something that is not even his?”
Teju shrank back as her eyes watered. “It is his”
“Would you stop the stupid lies” Tito snapped, her eyes flashing with fury. “Game over, I read the diary, clearly it holds more truths than your mouth does” Taking a calming breath, she folded her hands across her chest. “Who is the father of your child, Teju?” Tito finally asked the question that was hanging on her tongue but she was too scared to utter.
Teju shrank away, shaking her head. “It is better you don’t know”
“It is better I do”
Horrified, Teju shook her head. “No”
“Tell me now!”
“It’s your father” Teju dropped. “Mark Johnson”
Gloria stalked around the room in stoned silence. It has been an hour since Laura left but she still could not get the scene off her head. Her pent up unease and tension, she released by walking about the room, doing aimless things. Her intentionally noisy feet and the gentle whine of the fan constituted the only sound in the room.
“Spill it out”
Gloria felt Frank’s eyes on her and she turned her head in Frank’s direction. He lay lazily on the bed, his legs were crossed before him and he had one hand under his head. “What?” she snapped.
“I know you have something to say, so say it. You are wearing out this thin floor with your feet”
Gloria turned to face her husband fully, feeling tension oozing out of her pores. She had been married to Frank for years, but frankly, she still could not boastfully say she knew her husband in all totality. “What do you have to do with this, Frank?” what she was talking about was clear for all.
Frank sighed. “I already told you, nothing”
“Well, guess what; I don’t believe you” she snapped. “I know you too well, you can’t fool me.” She said forcefully. “You were not the least bit surprised or shocked when you read about the rape on Laura’s phone”
“I’m immune to shock. I’ve seen too much in life already to be shocked at anything”
“Don’t give me that cliché, Frank.” Gloria snapped. “You are immune to shock or you expected the shocker?” Frank frowned. “Why did it seem to me like you were expecting to see exactly what you saw in that phone?”
“I don’t know, did I write the girl’s diary for her? Maybe the problem is your displaced mind, it makes you assume mundane things” Frank pushed up to a sitting position and he frowned at his wife. “You know, I can take everyone doubting my integrity but when it is coming from my own wife, it is quite unfortunate”
The victim card, Gloria recognized it so well. It was the one card he always pulled in situations like this. She swallowed. “Okay, let us assume you are telling me the truth and actually have nothing to do with all these, why must you do that to Mark?”
Frank leaned back on the bed. “Do what?”
“Paint him black. You totally made him look like a criminal!”
Frank picked up his phone, giving it his attention. “Maybe he is”
Frank sighed, visibly tired of the conversation. “Listen woman, I am tired of this. I have had more than enough whining for one day, let me sleep”
Gloria watched Frank turn on his side with anger bubbling in her. He stretched out his hand and put off the bedside lamp, throwing the room into darkness. She gritted her teeth as she stalked to the bed, sitting and taking off her slippers. She just couldn’t believe Frank. Something told her that he had something to do with what was going on. She definitely would have to search for that Teju girl to get her own side of the story. Lying on the bed, she yanked angrily at the duvet, pulling it completely off Frank’s body as she wrapped it around hers and pretended to sleep.
Laura stood outside her uncle’s gate, gazing up at it with uncertainty clearly written over her face. She had been standing there, in the dark for a lot more than ten minutes, unable to summon up the courage to do this. Her uncle had much more than an uncle. He was her godfather but beyond that, he was the one who had acted more like a father to her. He was the father she never found in her own dad; he was the friend who could give her the undiluted truth without making her hate him. When her dad had disowned her, he had taken her in and she had lived in this same house, together with him and Tito for months till she got married. He was always there, always stood by her against all odds; how could she then go to him now, in the house where he had shown her absolute love to accuse him of something as terrible as this? How could she accuse the most upright and right standing man she had ever known of rape? Worse, how could she even give the words of her father so much thought that she would even doubt her own uncle?
Laura turned away from the gate, wiping of the sweat on her forehead with the back of her palm as she stared at the darkened street. Just go in and show him the picture on your phone, you don’t have to say anything, she told herself. She sighed, biting her lower lip in an attempt to stop its trembling. Her blood felt hot in her veins as she glanced at the gate again.
Nervously, she finally moved to the gate and gave it a small knock. There was no response from the gateman. Please, don’t respond, give me a reason to stop this madness. She knocked gently again and the gateman’s response made her jump.
“Who be that?” the gateman boomed.
Jolted, Laura sighed. There was no going back now. “It’s me, Laura”
“Ehn?” the gateman creaked open the pedestrian and peeped before throwing the door wide open. “Ah! Aunty Laura, looong time” he drew, grinning as he let Laura in. “We no just see your brake light for here at all”
Laura drew out a fake smile. “Sorry, Lukman, I’ve been busy”
Lukman nodded. “I know, marriage na serious business” he grinned. Since she got married, Laura had only been to this place on rare occasions. “I sure say you bring something come, this one wey you come for night so”
Laura nodded, glancing nervously at the house. “Is father around?”
“Yes, oga dey”
Laura nodded repeatedly, staring at the moderate building ahead with fright. She was terribly scared that she would offend her uncle but worse, she didn’t know what she would do if her dad was right… if her uncle was actually the culprit… by God, Laura was sure she would not be able to handle it. Giving Lukman a dismissive smile, she proceeded towards the house. Soon, her labored steps took her to the door.
Laura stared for a moment at the closed door, taking a deep breath, she knocked.
Deolu pummeled the pillow with his fists as he adjusted himself and lay on the long couch. He was exhausted from the long jug and his limbs had protested all the way back home. He hadn’t been able to sleep on his matrimonial bed since Laura waltzed out of the house. It was near impossible to enter their room and not perceive Laura’s scent; he could just imagine what it would be like, sleeping without her on the bed – pure torture. He exhaled, closing his eyes as he lay on the couch, his body spread out in a relaxed state. The words of the elderly man settled heavily on him. He had the building plans but he needed an engineer… Deolu knew himself to be a Christian but in all honesty, he wouldn’t say he was the least bit devoted. He had almost all he wanted; he ran his own textile company which was already known nationally and internationally for the unique designs and quality, he had no problem with money, and had a wife who loved him mutually. Asides child related issues; Deolu could almost say he was leading a satisfying life. He hadn’t taken God so seriously, because he probably felt he didn’t really need Him; he couldn’t have been more wrong. He swallowed.
Picking up his phone, Deolu typed, ‘I love you, Mrs. Rigs’ and sent it to Laura. He waited for it to deliver and sagged in relief when it did. He loved Laura and he wasn’t about to let her go. “Please look past my mistakes and help me God” Deolu said a short prayer. He was about to say more than that when his phone beeped, signaling a received message. His eyes instantly popped open as he grabbed the phone, his heart racing in the hope that the message was from Laura. Immediately he opened the message, the hopeful look in his eyes vanished, replaced instantly with a deep frown. The message was from an unknown number but that was not what held his undivided attention. He stared at the sent picture. It was a picture of Laura and Chris together in an eatery. It was a harmless picture that shouldn’t raise any brows if the situation on ground wasn’t already precarious.
He shot to his feet, still glaring at his phone. Why on earth was Chris looking at his wife in such an intense manner? There was this look in his eyes that Deolu was too scared to put a name to. His mind started racing as he started piecing the puzzles together. Chris was his best man during his wedding but he could still remember feeling Chris was not really himself during the ceremony. He always made stern remarks on valuing and treating Laura right. Deolu paced as he shook his head, trying to shake off his thoughts but they won’t go away. Now that he thought about it, Chris always acted a little different around Laura. Sometimes, he acted so distant, like he didn’t even notice her presence. Other times, he seemed to flirt with Laura in excess, giving her special attention even in the presence of others. Knowing Chris to be the jovial and flirty person he was, Deolu hadn’t thought much of his actions, on the contrary, he had been so happy his friend was so comfortable around his wife, but now, this picture gave a new voice to Chris’ reaction since the infidelity matter came up. “I’d be goddamned” he muttered in horrified awe. Chris couldn’t be in love with his wife, could he?
The door was opened few seconds later. Laura stared into the frowning face of her uncle who looked at her with worry. He was in his white singlet and short. “Laura” he muttered in surprise as he pushed the door wider to accommodate her. “What the hell are you doing here this late?” Mark Johnson asked as he closed the door, facing her fully with questions all over his face.
Laura stared tongue-tied at her uncle. He had the most honest expression on his face and she could see that he was genuinely worried about her. What on earth was she doing there? “Erm…” Laura groped around for words, something to use as an excuse”
“Come in” Mark seemed to realize they were standing by the door and pulled Laura to the sitting room, pushing her gently onto the couch before taking his seat beside her. “Is something wrong dear?”
“Yes… I mean no… erm” Laura jumped out of the chair, stalking away from the chair before she turned to face a puzzled Mark. “I want to ask you something, dad” she finally said. “Do you know Teju?”
Mark stared at her for a brief second before contemplating the question. “You’ve mentioned her couple of times, yes, I must have seen her at your wedding, and I’m not sure.” He shrugged. “I don’t think I would be able to recognize her, to be honest” he frowned at his niece as Laura pushed her hand into her pocket and fished out her phone. “What’s going on, Laura?”
Laura tapped feverishly at her phone. Her fingers shook and Mark was increasingly becoming worried. “I should have a picture of her here” Laura explained as her eyes seemed to search the content of her phone. Mark held his tongue, waiting patiently. Laura found what she was looking for – a clear picture of Teju – then, with her heart thudding in her chest, she moved towards her uncle, stretching the phone which he instantly collected. “Recognize her?”
As Mark’s eyes touched the picture on Laura’s phone, a sharp, barely audible gasp escaped his lips. It was a silent gasp that could have gone unnoticed but it echoed in Laura’s ear as though he had screamed. Her mouth suddenly went dry as she saw her uncle pale before her very eyes. He seemed to have lost all trace of colour as he all but gaped at the picture. “You… you recognize her?” Laura gasped out as she took a step back. No! He didn’t… he couldn’t!
Mark raised his eyes to Laura and she was shocked to see his eyes filmy with tears. And was his hand shaking? What was going on? “Laura…”
“No!” Laura gasped, shaking her head as she stared at her uncle in bewilderment. “You didn’t…” she shook her head continuously. “Just… just tell me you didn’t, uncle and I would believe you” she smiled strangely as she looked earnestly at Mark. But it was all there… everything Laura had never seen in the man she respected so much. The guilt was clearly etched on his face like an invisible scar.
“I never knew… I had no idea…” Mark pushed out of the chair, walking further away from Laura as though he was too ashamed to let her see him this way. His shoulders were slumped in defeat as he turned. “It was all a misunderstanding, Laura”
“Misunderstanding?” Laura yelled as she stared at her uncle in utter disbelief. “You raped her! You raped Teju” she yelled. “You call that a misunderstanding?”
“I did not rape her”
“That’s not what she wrote in her diary” she stared at her godfather. She wanted to burst into tears and weep her eyes out but her well of tears seemed to have dried up. She needed tears to wash away the sight of her uncle’s dejected form but the tears just wouldn’t come. All she could do was stare wide-eyed at her uncle. “Who are you?” she voiced. “Can no one just be what I thought them to be?” she asked. It was devastating enough to see that Deolu was not what she had thought him to be. He was not the perfect husband who wouldn’t dare cheat on her, despite the odds. Teju was not the loyal childhood friend she had thought her to be, but now, it also appeared her uncle who she had loved and respected beyond everyone else was a completely different person. Her godfather was a rapist! She shook her head. “Am I so stupid that I always misjudge people?” she chuckled bitterly. “And to think I went to confront my dad telling myself he was the only Johnson who can be so callous, it just turns out he is not half as worse as you”
Mark breathed, feeling his world crash. “I am sorry, Laura…” he swallowed the lump in his throat. “I haven’t been myself since it happened” he explained, his desperation to make her understand was evident as he drew closer. “It was why I travelled and stayed away for so long. I couldn’t get over what happened, what I did.” He swallowed. “I started attending therapeutic classes abroad”
Laura bursted out, laughing mirthlessly. She shook her head. “You didn’t book classes for Teju too? Surely she is more traumatized than you”
“Don’t…” she jumped back as Mark tried to touch her. “Don’t you touch me. So there is a possibility the child Teju is expecting is yours?” she knew she should feel a bit of relief at the thought but all she felt was misery. “Wonderful! Tito would be pleased” Backtracking, she made for the door, grabbing her phone as she went. She had to get out… she just had to get out. Tears started filling her eyes and Laura blinked repeatedly. It hurt… it hurt too much to realize that her father had been right. Laura shook her head against the tears threatening to fall, biting hard on her trembling lips. Mark called out to her, but she didn’t stop and thank God, he didn’t try to stop her.
Just as she got to the door, another thing her dad had said flashed into her head, making her hand freeze on the door knob. No! She didn’t need more misery, she told herself sternly, but another voice told her it was better to be done with it once and for all.
She turned and stared at her uncle’s back as he stood awkwardly at the middle of the sitting room. There were taut veins all over his hands, something that was always pronounced when he was tensed up. “Dad said something” Mark turned to face her. For a weird reason, her heart started racing even wilder than before. Mark’s eyes stared at hers through the distance. “He was so sure you did this and said it wouldn’t be your first time” Laura watched her uncle go completely still, the second time, but this time, it seemed almost scary. Standing as he was, it was like he just turned into a pillar of salt and Laura could actually feel tension engulfing the entire atmosphere. Fear overtook her as her instincts told her she would not like what she would hear. Still, she pushed. “What was he talking about?” could he have done this before? Raped someone before?
The second hand ticked noisily as the sitting room fell silent. Laura could hear her racing heart as she waited for Mark’s response. “Now is not the time, Laura”
His voice was so silent, Laura strained her ear to catch what he said. “It’s as good a time as any” Laura countered. “You might as well tell me now. I’ve had so much shocker in one day, I don’t think anything you say now can be worse than what’s already been said” Laura said but from the look on Mark’s face, Laura wasn’t so sure anymore. She felt a strange kind of dread as she took steps away from the door towards her uncle. She had never seen so much pain in his eyes. “What was he talking about, father?”
Mark turned away, as if unable to bear the look on her face. Silence dragged on for a moment. “Something that happened twenty six years ago” his strained voice floated to Laura’s ear.
“That happened” Laura felt numb with fear. “Happened to who?”
Mark turned to her then, tears slid down one cheek as he choked out. “Your mother” he dropped.
To be continued