Sacrilege – Episode 16
© Adeola Nissi
Mark pulled the door open and smiled grimly at his guest. “Was wondering when you would show up. You never disappoint.”
Frank gave a blinding grin. “Wouldn’t pass on an opportunity to salt your wounds.”
Mark nodded and swept his hand in. “Well, don’t do it at the door; not like it would make any difference.”
“Believe me, it would” Frank flowed into the sitting room with a bounce in his strides. He couldn’t keep the grin from spreading across his face. “Whatever might be keeping you in during the day must be really serious little brother” he gave the apartment a small appraisal before turning to smile at Mark. It had been a while he set foot in his brother’s apartment.
Impatience flashed in Mark’s eyes as he shifted. “Get to it, Frank”
Frank chuckled, sitting and cross-legging on the couch. “C’mon now, where is your sense of humor, Mark? Don’t tell me you lost it along with your two daughters” Mark opened his mouth but Frank interrupted him. “You should get it back, brother, wouldn’t want to leave you hanging dry with nothing to call your own”he lied, he would love exactly that.
Mark moved fully into the sitting room and sat on a couch. “They didn’t leave me, we had a disagreement. I’d get them back”
“How?” Frank raised a brow. “By… doing their make-ups?” he asked and chuckled.
“If I have to”
“Oh, quit dreaming Mark! Trust once lost can never be regained; you of all people should know that”
Mark shot out of the chair again. He had been doing that all day. He hadn’t been able to do anything meaningful, paranoia plagued his day just as it had plagued his night, after Tito walked out of the house, looking no bit like the girl he raised. She had barely uttered a word to him, staring at him like he was a black-faced bloody monster. The horror he saw in her eyes was almost more painful than the hurtful words from Laura’s mouth. He had spent most of his life feeling like a monster, now; he actually believed he was one.
“How does it feel, Mark?” Frank’s voice came out like a whisper. “How does it feel losing the ones you love the most? It hurts, right? Like nothing you’ve ever felt”
Mark swallowed. “You are never going to forgive me for that mistake, are you?”
Frank snarled. “Forgive you?” he laughed. “You slept with my wife on our wedding night” Frank emphasized. “I loved Sandra, loved her very much and you denied me of my rights as her husband. You destroyed what could have been a happy home before it even began…” he shook his head. “Asides offense to the Holy Spirit which is unforgivable, I am pretty sure what you did has no forgiveness”
“And what about what you did?” Mark exploded, whirling around to face Frank. “You are so good at casting blames without taking any, right?” his eyes flashed with fury. “Sandra didn’t intentionally sleep with me, did she? It was entirely my fault and I took the entire blame, but you… you just wouldn’t forgive her for an offense she didn’t consciously commit. How can you claim to love someone when you can’t forgive her.” Fury ignited in Frank’s eyes but Mark ignored it, staring bitterly at his twin. “She loved you… she bent over backwards for you despite the fact that things were not the way they used to be, but what did you do? You drained her… you watched the woman you claim to love wither right before your eyes until she died a sad and lonely woman” Mark’s mouth took a bitter form. “I always hated myself for being responsible, for creating a wedge between you two… but I hated you more… I hated you for treating Sandra like trash” he swallowed. “You used her as your permanent maid and whore when she should have been treated as a queen.
“That’s why you can’t forgive yourself, right?” he raised his brow. “You can’t forgive me because a part of you can’t forgive yourself either” Frank shot to his feet. “The truth is you can’t forgive yourself for pushing Sandra to an early grave but you find it easier to put all the blame on me instead”
“Don’t you dare put her death on me!” Frank bellowed, his eyes shooting daggers at Mark. “If Sandra is six feet under today, you put her there” his voice bounced off the walls, hanging around them like small spirits.”
“No, you sent her to an early grave with your unforgiveness” Mark barked. “I would have loved her… I would have made her feel as special as she deserves but instead, I had to watch her fade away under your very nose. You didn’t deserve her, you didn’t deserve her love”
Frank swung his fist, connecting firmly with Mark’s nose. Like Mark hadn’t even registered the pain, he returned the punch, sending blood spilling from Frank’s mouth. Frank staggered backwards; his hand going up to touched his bruised mouth. His mouth drawled into a snarl as he made to launch for Mark. Just then, his phone rang loud, making him pause his strides. He stood fuming, glaring at Mark with his arms fisted.
“Are you going to take that or should we continue throwing blows? I don’t mind the latter. Honestly, he would gladly accept physical pain compared with the one he harbored in his heart.”
Looking murderous, Frank dipped his hand into his pocket and took out his phone. Without fully registering the caller, he picked and barked. “What?”
“Frank! Where the hell are you?”
“Gloria? What’s going on?” and why did her voice sound so rasped, like she had spent hours crying?”
Gloria hissed. “Your daughter has been hospitalized, that’s what’s going on”
Frank froze in place. “Which daughter? Laura? What’s wrong with her?” Mark was unashamedly eavesdropping now. If something was wrong with his daughter, he certainly had to know about it.
“I am talking about Margaret!” Gloria snapped. “Margaret has been hospitalized. Now, leave wherever it is you are and get to BRH now”
The line went dead and Frank dropped his hand to his side, looking grim. Many times, he didn’t think about Margaret. Everything related to Laura had engulfed his head that he rarely had time for the other two girls – the ones who were actually his biological daughter. Jane had returned from school and she hadn’t even paid him a visit, he had known she was around only when Gloria told him. They only communicated when she needed money, and that was it. Margaret however was always calling, asking after him. She seemed to be the one who cared about him the most, but he had practically neglected her and taken her for granted; sounds like what he did to Sandra until she found comfort and solace in the grave.
“What’s wrong with Laura?” Mark asked instantly, looking worried.
Frank turned, heading towards the door. “It’s Margaret. You can rest your head.”
Mark stalked after him. “Of course, I can’t. Margaret is my niece. What is wrong with her?”
“Does it look like I know?” Frank snapped, opening the door.
“Well, we would find out” before Frank knew what Mark was about; Mark snatched the car keys from his hand, easing his legs to long strides. “I’m driving” he explained.
“Give me my car keys, I am not going to the hospital in the same car with you” Frank deadpanned.
Mark nodded. “You can either spend the next thirty minutes, trying to get it or we can spend it on the road, trying to get to the hospital. Your pick” he said, already marching towards Frank’s car, making his decision for him.
Fuming, Frank got into the passenger’s seat and they set for the hospital.
***** “I am practically going to kill your father when he gets here?” Gloria echoed as she quit her pacing to sit between Laura and Jane again. Laura cradled little Tess, happy that she was falling asleep. She doesn’t get to carry children much, holding Tess in her arms almost brought tears to her eyes as she struggled to hear what was being said. “I told him Collins wasn’t a good man but he just wouldn’t listen to me” Gloria continued, fuming. “A good thing Laura stood her grounds and refused to marry that woman beater”
“Would have been better if he never married anyone.” Jane said bitterly. “You should have seen her on the floor of their sitting room” she shook her head as her pale face studied the ground. “Her face was swollen, she was all blood and bruises, couldn’t even move to comfort Tess who was busy crying her eyes out. You want to kill dad? All I want is five minutes with her beast of a husband.”
Laura remained mute, listening to Jane and Gloria as she rocked Tess to sleep on her lap.
“Frank should never have allowed Margaret to marry him.”
Jane shrugged. “Maggy seemed to want the union, the worst part is that she didn’t really love Collins. The problem is that Margaret is a daddy pleaser; I am sure if she had said no, daddy wouldn’t have insisted. He is not always as hard on her as he is with Laura”
Laura swallowed the words in her throat. It is always better to hold your tongue than say something you’d later regret. Despite the issues she had with Margaret, Laura felt bad for her. They had never been close, at least, not the form of closeness expected of siblings. Somehow, Margaret saw her as a rival and Laura never understood why. She was always out to prove herself as the better person, especially to their dad. That was why it didn’t come as a surprise to her when she heard that Margaret had married the same man her father had been bent on her marrying.
The recent revelations revealed why Frank had always been hard on her. He always picked on her every move, especially when she had Mark’s support. Frank was always against whatever Mark supported. It was like he constantly wanted to see who Laura would obey and now, Laura realized painfully that she had gone against Frank more times than she could count. Her love for Mark Johnson had risen every time he supported her various antics, he had seemed to understand her. It was only rarely that he advised her against some things she set out to do, and because he rarely did, Laura was always bound to listen to whatever he said.
Now, thinking about it, Laura wondered if Mark had actually done all that to gain her love. There was a lot going on in her head and she just needed the drama to stop. She swallowed and stared ahead at the entrance of the hospital, knowing that Frank Johnson would walk in any minute. She wondered what she would say to him. She had so much to apologize for… so many things she wished she had done differently.
Her heart raced, drowning Jane and Gloria’s enraged voices until her attention was snatched back when Gloria and Jane surged to their feet. “How is she, doctor?” they chorused.
“Catherine, how is my sister?” Laura asked.
“Better. you can see her now” Catherine said and turned. “Follow me”
Without pausing, they followed her.
***** Chris gave his office door a hard stare, holding his phone in a viselike grip as he waited. He had been calling his mother all day long, but she had refused to pick up his call, now, he was calling his dad. “Hi dad” he bit off, not so nicely as soon as his dad picked up.
“Chris, how are you?”
“Not fine, dad. Would you believe what mum did? She actually sent a woman into my house to seduce me, would you believe that?” he paced slowly.
“Ehn… and did she succeed?”
“But of course not!” Chris bit out. “I had to leave the bedroom for her since it was already dark and sent her out of my house this morning.”
“Wait! Son, you mean to tell me that you slept under the same roof with Livinus’ beautiful daughter and nothing happened?” stunned disbelief filtered through his voice. “Hold on son, tell me something” Mr. Anayo’s voice dropped to a near whisper. “Is everything still working perfectly downstairs?”
Chris gritted his teeth. His parents surprised him more with each passing day. “Oh, c’mon dad, I am fine”
“Really? There is no blockage in transmission or transfusion?”
“Please dad… I can’t believe you are in sync with this too. I thought you always advocated celibacy until marriage”
“Oh well, since you never really lived by that particular analogy, there is no use pursuing a lost cause, is there?” Chris exhaled. Why was it that everyone assumed he slept with every woman just because he was given to flirting with them? He remembered Tito’s condemning eyes as she saw him with ‘what’s her name again’ and his mouth pressed into a thin line. “Besides, the end justifies the means” Mr. Anayo finished.
“There’s no justification in pushing a woman into my bed, dad. Besides, what makes you think I would get married to a woman who would whore herself into marriage?”
“It isn’t whoring when the person you are sleeping with is your husband to be”
“I don’t remember proposing to her. And dad, I would appreciate it if you and mum can stop meddling with my life. I would only get married when I see fit, pressurizing me would not make me get married any faster. You are a man dad, and you should understand that I don’t like doing things against my will”
Mr. Anayo sighed over the phone and seemed to be shuffling through something. “Okay, Chris. Here’s what I would do. I can stop your mum from pushing a woman on you on one condition” he began and Chris sighed. “You have to bring a woman home in two months max”
Why did Chris see the deadline coming? “Two months? Dad, we are talking about a woman here”
“I don’t care. Two months, Chris, or get ready for your wedding with Livinus’ daughter.”
***** Teju swallowed her pills, washing them down with a glass of water. The dizziness subsided but if anything, the ache in her head magnified. Thanks to the phone call interruption, Laura had left with her weird step mother, giving her enough room to breathe normally again.
How could the woman presume herself to be her mother? Teju knew her mother for Pete’s sake! And the worst part was, Teju had no idea what the woman had actually come for before she fell into her hallucination. She could bet it had something to do with Laura. And Laura? Why had Laura come?
Getting dressed, she sat back down on her bed, waiting with her eyes on the clock. She was expecting a knock in any minute and her eyes took a quick survey of the apartment. The woman had practically imposed herself on her, coining words to her advantage until she had no choice but to give in to her desire to pay her a visit. She had figured she had the right to want to see her but now, she was actually glad she had needed.
The knock came on the door and she smiled to herself without mirth. She never disappoints. If there is one good thing about Mrs Aderigbe, it is that she always keeps to time.
Teju pushed out of the bed, gave her room another glance, then waltzed to the door and pulled it open. “Ekaasan ma” she greeted good afternoon in Yoruba.
Mrs Aderigbe smiled at her, giving her a full hug. Teju’s arms remained glued to her sides in an awkward manner. “My love, bawoni?” she grinned, pulling back. “Baby mi nko?”
“Still in the womb ma” she answered and shifted to allow Deolu’s mother in.
Mrs Aderigbe breezed in, carrying a large bag that Teju was just noticing. She dropped the bag at the foot of the bed and dropped onto the bed herself. She grinned at Teju as she fingered the nylon she just dropped. “I brought you fruits, you need it now more than ever”
Teju stared at her. “You didn’t have to”
“I have to. I wouldn’t stop thanking you for what you did for me. And since you are carrying my grandchild, you are officially my responsibility now”
Teju remained silent for a brief moment as she moved to the only chair in the room and pulled it to herself. “You would have to stop thanking me, ma, I didn’t agree to do this for you. I am doing this for myself” For Deolu and Laura as well, she finished internally. She knew they wouldn’t know it but they would soon enough, she only hoped it wouldn’t be soon enough. She had misled Tito purposely to get her off her back. She knew with the way she had been going, she would have uncovered everything she was hiding and she couldn’t have that… or at least not yet.
“All the same, you did and that’s all that matters.” Her smile seemed to have waned but she was still smiling. “And how is Deolu taking it”
“Better than he would when he realizes we tricked him into this.” she said with a lifeless tone to her voice.
“He wouldn’t find out, we are the only ones that know about it, so as long as we keep mum, the secret is safe”
Why couldn’t she find solace in that assurance? Sighing, Teju sat straighter. “There is something I want to ask you ma, and I hope you would be entirely honest with me”
Her eyes probed Deolu’s mother’s, as her mind worked. “Of course dear” she frowned. “What is it?”
Teju shifted uncomfortably on her seat, sweats of perspiration forming on her forehead, dreading what was coming. “Is my mother my mother?”
Mrs Aderigbe paled slightly and blinked in quick succession. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve been friends with my mother almost all her life, I just want to know the truth. What do you know about my birth?”
Mrs Aderigbe swallowed hard. “Why… do you ask?”
“Just tell me, I know you are hiding something already” Teju surged to her feet, feeling uneasy. If Mrs Aderigbe’s facial expression was anything to go by, she had a reason to feel agitated. “Is she my mother? My biological mother? I want the truth”
There was brief silence. “No” She finally dropped. “We were at the river one evening when you sailed into sight. We… we found you in a basket.”
To be continued