Sacrilege – Episode 18
© Adeola Nissi
Deolu had made a quick stop at his company, partly because it had been a little too early to be visiting Mark – someone he hadn’t seen for few months now, and partly because he had to sort out some business dealings. Boss or not, there are times you just have to make an appearance and out things in their proper shapes – especially when you are the boss. It was the second time he had popped into his company since the entire saga started. But even at that, his mind hadn’t been focused on what he went there to do. What reasonable man would be at rest when his house was ablaze?
Deolu parked on the street, alighted and moved towards the building ahead. A few raps on the gate had the gateman murmuring in response. Deolu listened to the sound of the gateman’s dragging feet, waiting patiently. It had been a long time since he came here and Deolu pushed down a small feeling of unease. Not only was he anxious to know exactly what had transpired between Laura and her uncle, he also knew that Mark would not exactly receive him with open arms. He had been like a father to Laura and if what Laura said was anything to go by, he was her biological father. He had taken him as a son when he got married to Laura, he could imagine how pissed Mark would be.
Unlike the gateman, he pushed open the door without the usual interrogation. “Ah oga Deolu, long time” he pushed the gate wider, allowing Deolu in.
Deolu’s face eased into a friendly smile. “How are you, Lukman?”
Lukman beat his hand together, rubbing his palms in a way Deolu was fond of. “I just dey o, oga mi. as I no dey see you for here again na, hand just dry”
Deolu chuckled. “Is Mr. Johnson in?
Lukman’s shoulders sagged, “No, he just commot. This one wey all of you just dey appear so, you too done come fight my oga?
Disappointment engulfed Deolu even as he frowned. “Fight? What do you mean?”
Lukman adjusted his stance. “No be your wife? Madam, Laura come yesterday, shout shout sotey, she cry commot. Madam Tito too come, she too cry commot. Today, oga twin don come hala for oga too, now you don come. Make una mercy for Oga Mark na, and me I know say my oga no fit do that kind thing wey una talk o”
Deolu frowned, taking a step closer to Lukman. It was odd being fed information by Mark’s gateman but he did know that workers, especially in a residential apartment, were often the walls of the house. Nothing could get past them. “Can’t do what?”
“As your wife enter yesterday wey I hear say she dey shout, na hin I waka go window, hear wetin dey happen. She talk say oga…” Lukman’s voice dropped in conspiracy. “… say oga rape person” Deolu’s frown deepened several degrees. “How he go take do that kain thing?”
Rape! That was definitely something he could not imagine Mark doing. The man was the sweetest man Deolu had ever come across. He always felt the man couldn’t hurt a fly, so… “what do you mean, rape?… raped who?” for an unknown reason, Deolu was scared. Some of the incoherent words Laura mumbled in her sleep rolled in his head.
“How I go take know? I no hear everything wey dem talk” he started, looking guilty. “But… she mention one name. I no remember. Erm… The name wan be like oga pikin name”
“No. the name just be like her own, na…”
Similar too… “Teju” Deolu whispered to himself, a frown taking over his entire face.
“Yes. Na the name wey I hear be that”
Deolu’s head shot up. “What?” blood drained from his face as his head began to throb. “you can’t be serious”
Lukman frowned at Deolu. “Me I just dey tell you wetin I hear o, I no know anything o”
No! he certainly couldn’t be implying that… that… Deolu’s face paled. The night he slept with Teju flashed in his mind, making his brain freeze for a moment. What if… “God no…” Deolu gasped as he turned, his strides quickening with each step.
“You dey go?” Lukman asked but Deolu barely responded as he marched out of the compound. He got into his car and zoomed off.
Chris scrolled through the contact list on his phone until he stopped on Deolu’s name. his finger hovered over the name for brief seconds until he gave up and dropped the phone on his office table. He exhaled and raked his hand over his hair. He missed his best friend, much more than he wished to admit to himself. And now, with his parents giving him the heat about getting married, he needed something that would take him mind off it all. He could claim to have a mind of his own, but when African parents decide to have their way, there is little a man can do.
He really needed Deolu now. He missed their friendly chatter, well aimed innocent insults, he missed that bond he shared with Deolu that he didn’t share with any other male friend he had. Ever since Wale had advised him to pursue Laura, he had distanced himself from him. Wale might have been right about Chris’ feelings for Laura but his advice had told him clearly that Wale wasn’t the type of friend to have around. A part of him could not but wish things hadn’t gone sour with Deolu’s marriage. Miserable as he had been, watching the woman he loved dearly with his best friend, he had had a bit of satisfaction in knowing she was with someone who loved her enough to make her happy – someone who deserved her love. Seeing her happy had made him happy, and oddly, he was glad she was with Deolu and not any other man.
Now, he was still mad at Deolu for hurting Laura but no matter how much he wished otherwise, his principles would not allow him pursue the wife of his best friend. Because that was what Deolu remained – his best friend. And he needed him now. He needed him to tell him what to do. or maybe they could go out and have fun, forget all that was plaguing them just like old times. Even if it was just for a while. He had to admit that he hadn’t really been himself since the entire incident with Laura and Deolu started. He was just as affected as they were.
Chris surged forward, grabbed the remote of the small flat screen on his office wall and switched on the TV. He changed the channel until he got to a news channel and his eyes caught something. His eyes stuck to the TV screen as he read through the headline. “Oh my God!” he gasped out and surged out of his chair, grabbed his phone and his car keys and rushed out of his office. He made a quick stop at his colleague’s office and asked him to cover for him. With that, he dashed out of the company.
Teju was as pale as sheet as she watched Deolu’s mother. Her eyes were as large as saucers. “No! there must be a mistake somewhere. I can’t believe this, I just can’t” she muttered, jumped out of her chair and started pacing.
Mrs. Aderigbe looked at Teju, her faced laced with worry. “You need to calm down, you shouldn’t stress yourself”
“Don’t tell me what I need” Teju snapped. “You don’t care about me; all you care about is the child in my tummy”
Mrs. Aderigbe shifted. “Don’t say that”
“Why? The truth is too bitter for you?” Teju’s eyes flashed. “Well, it doesn’t seem bitter enough since you and my mother couldn’t see it fit to tell me the truth all these years…” she chuckled slightly, bitterly. “Oh, that’s right, she isn’t even my mother”
Mrs. Aderigbe approached carefully. “How was she to tell you? You were her gift. Her husband left her because she could not give birth to a child, when she found you; you were her only source of happiness and comfort. Many times, she wanted to tell you but I stopped her because I knew what it would be for her if she lost you”
“Of course, you stopped her” Teju yelled, her eyes watering up. “typical you. You just have to be the reason for every bad thing, right? I deserved to know. My mother should have told me the truth but she didn’t. how am I supposed to deal with so much in my life?”
A loud knock vibrated the room and Teju stalked towards the door, pulling it open without even asking to know who it was. As the open door revealed the person behind it, she paled. “Deolu” she gasped.
Deolu peered down at Teju, noting her pale state. If he had only looked more closely, he would have noticed the tears in her eyes. His eyes shifted from her and landed on his mother, just inside the room. His eyes clouded with fury and resentment. “I see we have a full house” he mouthed. His eyes rotated from Teju to his mother, not at all pleased to see them together.
“Erm… your mother just stopped by to see me” Teju managed, moving out of the way to let Deolu into her apartment.
“Of course, she did” Deolu muttered, his eyes on his mother as he moved into the apartment. Mrs. Aderigbe held his gaze firmly. “hello mum”
“Wondered when you would finally remember your manners” Mrs. Aderigbe said with a cocky smile. “I should be leaving now, you won’t have to put up with me for too long. I just brought your child’s mother some fruits.”
Deolu nodded without a trace of smile on his face. “Yes, about that…” he turned to Teju. “I think you might need to explain something to us, Teju” he said, frowning at Teju. A lot had changed in Teju that made Deolu wonder if he actually knew much about her. She had been so close to him, the closest female to him asides Laura, but Deolu was tempted to think there was more to her than he actually knew.
One look at Deolu’s face and Teju already knew what was going on. Her heart slammed against her chest. “Explain what?” she managed, her voice came out weakly.
“Who is the father of your child, Teju?” Deolu finally asked.
“It’s fine… Everything is fine. It is just a minor accident. You’d see, when you get there, he would already be up on his feet.” Tito twisted her sweaty palms in her lap, her legs moving restlessly as she chanted the words. It helped to say those words; maybe by saying it over and over again, she would come to believe it. The taxi driver glanced at her using the mirror as she fixed her eyes on the road. She blinked away the tears that stung her eyes and ran her sweaty palms over her face. Nervous, she shifted. “Can you go faster?”
“It is better to arrive late than to be late” he glanced back at Tito. “Calm down girl, you are no use to the person if you also land on a hospital bed. We are almost there”
Tito swallowed, looking away. The last sentence stuck to her head. She wanted to get there as fast as possible, but a part of her was scared. She was scared of what she would meet there. Several years ago, she had chanted these same words. She had told herself that it would be fine, but… her lips shook and she bit them hard, covering her mouth with her knuckles. No, she wouldn’t cry. Tears meant something bad had happened and no, that was one thing she didn’t want to accept.
The taxi screeched to a halt and her eyes snapped up. “We’re here” the taxi driver said in a calm tone. His eyes held a slight hint of compassion. Tito swallowed, paid the taxi driver and alighted. The taxi pulled away behind her but she stood rooted to where she was, staring at the magnificent building ahead of her. Hospitals! It has been so long she went into one. It had been so long she had been inside this particular one. But it did come inside her… plague her dreams until she woke up, sweaty, the stench of blood stung to her nose. Her heart slammed in her chest as she took cautious steps into the hospital. As the familiar door opened for her to enter, the smell of hospital washed over her and she clenched her fists as memories she had tried really hard to put away flooded her mind. The waiting room was swarming with people which swarm as she looked at them through teary eyes. She searched desperately for familiar faces, needing someone to keep her glued to sanity.
She turned at the sound of Laura’s voice and saw her hastening towards her. Her eyes looked swollen from the tears that were still obvious in her eyes. God, no… not tears… “Oh, Tito” Laura moaned immediately she got to Tito and pulled her into her arms.
Tito pulled back, searching Laura’s eyes. “How… how is he? Is he alright?” she looked round the hospital, turning restlessly. “Please, tell me he is alright?”
Laura swallowed. “The doctors are attending to them”
“But he would be alright, right?” Tito’s eyes returned to Laura and Laura froze, realizing what was going on as she noticed Tito’s pale face. She touched her hand and alarm bells went off in her head. How could she have been so stupid? she never should have made Tito come here.
“My God, Tito, you are so cold. You should go”
“No” Tito shook her head. “No, I have to see him” her voice shook as she started in a particular direction. “I need to see my dad”
“Tito… please, calm down” Laura rushed after her, grabbing Tito’s hand, trying to stop her. She had seen this before. How had she not known it was a bad idea to have Tito inside this particular hospital?
Laura turned and saw Chris approaching, his long strides eating up the distance between them. She gripped Tito’s hand tight, not willing to let her go. Chris was by her side in seconds and he gazed at the two ladies, concern written all over him. “Hi. I just heard what happened. Any news?”
Laura shook her head. Her throat felt heavy with fear that she tried hard to hide. She wanted to cry, wail, until she fell into a mindless sleep and woke up to find out that it had all been a terrible nightmare. “No” her voice shook as she shook her head.
“It’s my entire fault…” Tito started, her eyes flooded with tears she magically kept at bay by blinking consistently. “He called me… he called and called but i…” she raised her hand to her mouth. “if anything happens to him…” her voice shook as she shook her head.
“Nothing is going to happen to him” Chris said but Tito only shook her head.
“That’s what they all said the last time” her hand shook and this time, a tear drop succeeded in slipping past her lids. The hot liquid slid down her cold cheek and she dashed it away almost instantly.
Laura shifted helplessly. “She can’t stay here” she told Chris.
“You won’t tell me what I can or cannot do, I am not leaving” Tito snapped.
This was a side of Tito that Chris had never seen before. He had never seen her look so scared, so lost. Nothing; absolutely nothing made a man feel more powerless than a strong woman in tears. But watching Tito fight her tears, he thought it was even harder to watch a strong woman fight her tears. His hand automatically moved to her hand. It felt cold beneath his hand, making him want to pull off his suit jacket for her to wear. But he doubted if she would want that. “Why don’t we go home to get him a change of clothes?” Chris murmured the first thing that came to mind.
“No, I’m not leaving”
“It would just be for a few minutes. Your dad would be needing clean clothes by the time the doctors are through.”
“Yes, Tito. Please” Laura seconded.
Tito hesitated. A part of her wanted to run out of this place, run so hard until she could inhale something that was not blood, medicine and fear. She felt sick to the stomach just being here.
Unable to stop himself, Chris shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over Tito’s shoulder. Chris’ cologne instantly seeped into Tito’s nostrils, as heat from the jacket warmed up her chilled body. “C’mon” Chris whispered, putting his hand gently on her back and giving a slight push. He almost sighed in relief when she did not object as her legs started moving. He walked with her, feeling her tense body beneath his hand. As they got to the door, he glanced back and saw Laura hugging herself. She looked so alone. He could see the fear she tried so hard to hide. Swallowing, he opened the door for Tito and walked out of the hospital.
Deolu watched Teju pale before his eyes. Silence stretched in the room. Her eyes were guarded. “The child is yours” she finally said.
“But, of course, the child is his” Mrs. Aderigbe snapped. “What on earth is wrong with you, Deolu?”
“You, stay out of this, mum” Deolu shot at his mum without taking his eyes off Teju. “Really? Is the child really mine? Because, I have reasons to believe otherwise”
Teju swallowed. “I know… I know Tito must have told you what I said… that the child is for her dad, but it’s not… I only…”
“Wait!” Mrs. Aderigbe’s voice rang out. “You told her the child is for her dad? What the heck are you talking about?”
“It was a lie” Teju’s voice shook as she gazed from Deolu’s mother to Deolu, tears in her eyes. “I just told her that to make her stop pestering me”
“Of course. It seems you are so used to lies lately” Deolu stared at Teju like he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. “Is that it? Was that why you called me that night? Made me come to your house and lured me into bed? Was the aim to force another man’s child on me?”
Teju shook her head. “No” tears fell from her eyes.
“But of course not” Mrs. Aderigbe’s voice didn’t seem so certain. “She assured me! I was the one that asked her to…”
“No” Teju gasped, stopping the words before they fell out.
Deolu turned, frowning at his mother. “You told her to do what?” he asked. His mother seemed to have gone slightly pale. “What did you ask her to do?” he boomed again.
“to sleep with you” his mother dropped.
Deolu gazed at her, his ears echoing the words. “To what?”
“Please… please, don’t” Teju pleaded, her breath came out in gasps as tears fell from her eyes.
Mrs. Aderigbe, realizing that there was no use hiding what was already in the open, opened her mouth. “When you wouldn’t give me a grandchild, I begged Teju to sleep with you. That’s why i… I picked came to your house that night and picked a fight because I knew you would storm out of the house the way you always did whenever you need a release from your anger.” Deolu stared at his mother in wide-eyed wonder. “then, when you were out of the house, I called Teju and told her to call you…” her voice trailed off.
Deolu’s eyes stared hard at his mother in stunned disbelief, and then slid over to Teju. “Wow” he gasped. He remembered that night all too well. His mother had raved on and on about the childless state of his home that he had been so angry, he had stormed out of the house. He had thought he would do the usual, drive round Lagos until he was completely exhausted, but then, Teju had called. She had sobbed over the phone, pleading with him to come over to her place. So worried, he had gone over to meet her, and then, when he got there, she had been in nothing more than a flimsy red nightwear. She had cried and cried in his arms, lamenting how she had caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman. God! How was he to know it was all scripted? He wondered, gazing at the two women. But she had known his weakness – tears. When she had kissed him and he tried to pull back, she had clung to him, crying and saying just how much she felt like less of a woman. Unable to stop himself and coupled with the added frustration from home, he had given in that night.
He had blamed himself ever since for not being strong enough. For taking advantage of Teju when she was vulnerable. How was he to know he had just acted his part of a well-scripted movie?
To be continued