After parking as close to the entrance of his flat as he could, he came around to her side of the car and picked her up with some difficulty. When he straightened up, she threw her arms around his shoulders and he walked into the flat, her head lolling against his chest.
The relationship was a difficult one to label as it progressed, Ken could not get enough of Teni, but all he ever got were mixed signals, she spent a great deal of her time with him yet she was never emotionally available, she treated the relationship at best as a fling, a long drawn out one. Ken found this frustrating but couldn’t bring himself to end the relationship with this damaged angel. He felt the need to nurture her, repair her even but he didn’t know where to begin. He saw the cracks but only on the surface and was completely unable to scratch beyond that cracked surface. He tried to get to her while she was drunk and while she was sober; when she was drunk, all he got were unintelligible bits of uncompleted sentences, when she was sober however it was a different ball game as her reactions were different every time he tried. At first he would try to gently criticise her drinking and smoking habits but as time went on he discovered that they were just a cover for some deep seated hurt, he then tried to find out the cause of the pain, the events or person who had occasioned it. She almost always clammed up and just left his presence. On very rare occasions she would appear to be deep in thought and would even begin to speak but this usually ended up with her breaking into tears and then sobbing inconsolably for long periods, making him regret that he had probed in the first place.
Teniola never flashed to a moment of discovery in particular, she was still in denial at the time, she always told herself there was an explanation and that they would turn up at her door one day, give a reasonable explanation and make everything right once again. It just had to be that way. At moments when doubt set in, she always flashed back to the day she tried to explain the situation to her parents. She had had no choice after all efforts to find out what had occurred proved futile, she had had no one to turn to for an explanation and had tried to give what little information she had to her parents. The plan had been to omit parts of the story but when faced with both her parents, whatever little energy or resolve she had left in her had been completely drained. She always remembered that day to the tiniest detail. The slightly tilted wall clock just above her dad’s seat, the dog eared telephone book on the center table. She remembered thinking that the film of white powder on her mum’s face was a bit too much, she remembered very vividly the look of absolute disbelief on her parents’ face as her narration began, how distraught her mum had been and the anger that clouded her dad’s face.
Teniola remembered exactly how the events of that evening had played out “So explain this to me again, clearly this time, no tears, nothing” Teni stared unseeingly at her dad through her tears, his cool mien belied the storm gathering behind his eyes, he couldn’t believe what his daughter was telling him, it was totally incredulous and for the first time ever, it occurred to him that he could hit his daughter, his princess, his angel. Teni turned to her mum, beseeching her with her eyes, seeking solace, but her mum was equally, if not more distraught than Teniola herself. She had started wailing half way through the story and only stopped when her husband spoke, still the tears flowed and her shoulders shook. She refused to look at Teniola.
“I am waiting Teni and please be coherent” his voice was grating this time.
“I was pregnant the last time I was in Nigeria, I was pregnant…”
Teni always found it too painful to proceed with her memory of that day beyond this point. Her eyes always become blurry at this point and she would always break into tears. Ken always found these moments heart breaking and it tormented him to try to probe further but he knew that if he really wanted to help her and be there for her, he had to get to the bottom of the matter, find out what made her such a wildling. On this particular day however, she didn’t break into tears, her jaw set in a visibly stubborn line and her eyes narrowed as she turned to face him. She picked her words carefully and enunciated properly as she spoke to him;
“Ken, I am not ready to tell you whatever you want to know, I don’t know when or if I will ever be ready to tell you, but if you are willing to go into whatever it is you think we have as it is, well it’s your choice but whatever it is I have given you so far is all I can offer”
“Whatever I think we have?” Ken was hurt but still couldn’t let go
“Ken I am not going to be able to trust anyone for a long time, in fact I doubt that I ever will trust anyone ever, so I can’t really call whatever we are doing a name”
“It really hurts when you speak that way” He spoke gently, trying to hide the hurt which still showed through his voice, “I have not done anything to deserve being treated like this.“
“Neither did they until they did it” she snapped at him and then reached under the pillow to search for a crumpled pack of cigarettes, she carefully extracted one, lit it up and took several drags in quick succession while Ken looked on without saying another word.
“I would like to see my mum please”
The woman behind the receptionist’s desk stared down at Claire from behind her desk. “You need adult supervision to do that” she eventually responded.
The trip to the home had been a quiet and long one; each individual occupied with his or her thoughts. Tai wondering what their mum would do if she found out they went with Claire without her allowing it. Kenny hoping they would make it back in time before they were missed. Both of them hoping their mum wouldn’t take one look at them and know. They had never so blatantly disobeyed her at least not on an issue of this magnitude. They had never actually even been so far from home without the company of at least one of their parents and quite a number of times during the trip, Tai panicked but each time he calmed down when he realised that the nearest bus stop was miles away. Kenny on the other hand was numb with nervousness by the time they got to their destination.
“We are adults” Kenny responded to the unfriendly receptionist, indicating himself and his twin by pointing with an index finger directed first at him and then moving it slowly in the direction of his twin. The woman raised an eyebrow and then spoke really slowly as thought talking to an imbecile.
“By adults I mean at least 18 years of age sir” she was really fair yet unattractive and the mean look on her face did not help matters. The name tag on her uniform simply stated Eunice.
“Eunice” Tai imitated her speech pattern and her irritation was boldly written on her face as he spoke the look of irritation increasing as he pronounced each word but she waited for him to finish before she spoke, “We are 19 years of age and therefore adults, we knew this young lady here needed adult supervision which is why we are here with her”
“And you are here with her in the capacity of?” Eunice was once again speaking in clipped tones and there was a slight mocking look on her face.
“We are her cousins” Tai was pleased with himself as he came up with this new lie, he was sure her next line of defence would be that they could only accompany her if they were relatives.
Neither twin was prepared for this one and both stuttered for a few seconds before Tai eventually mumbled that they didn’t have identity cards with them.
“I didn’t quite get that” Eunice was not going to let them off easy and she actually cupped a hand behind her right ear.
“We do not have them here” Tai spoke up.
“Then you will have to come back with them or with real adults” she had a really mean smile on her face.
Claire started crying, quietly at first and then her voice rose “I want to see my mum” she wailed, “I have to see her, this is not fair”
“Young lady, please do not disturb the patients, there is a procedure here and I can’t let you in”
“But she’s my mum” Claire was howling now.
“You have to take this noise outside now” Eunice was adamant.
A head poked out of a nearby office, it was a grey haired bespectacled man. “What is going on here Eunice?” he enquired, his calm voice demanded attention and all four of them turned to face him. “Doctor, they would like to see a patient but there is no accompanying adult” As she spoke, the man stepped out from behind the door and into the room, he kept flipping his gaze between Eunice and Claire while Eunice spoke and when she was done, he snapped his fingers at Claire “Claire right?” she nodded mutely “Wow, you are so grown, last I saw you, you were about this tall” he indicated with his hand. “How’s your dad? He was here about a month ago, said you were you doing fine, I can see that now” He paused to shut his office door.
“So who are these fine young men?” he smiled at the twins
“They are my friends sir” Claire was no longer crying
He offered handshakes to each twin in turn “Dr Gbadebo” he said
“Kenny” They simply stated.
“So,” he turned to Claire once again “why is your dad not here?”
Claire’s face fell but she refused to speak, the doctor smiled at her downturned head and then spoke to Eunice. “Please fill out the necessary forms, I’ll supervise the visit” to Claire he said “Give her the information she requires and then you guys can wait in my office while we get your mum”
“Thank you sir” Claire’s gratitude was absolute.
“Thanks” the twins also mumbled as the doctor stepped back into his office.
“Name?” Eunice asked, pen hovering a form which seemed to have magically appeared in front of her
“Claire who?” Eunice raised an eyebrow.
“Ola” Eunice looked at her waiting for more, Claire gave her the full name “Mrs Teniola Adewale”
Stay tuned for Episode 21 next week Friday.
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Categories: Short stories, written series
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