“Ola” Eunice looked at her waiting for more, Claire gave her the full name “Mrs Teniola Adewale” When they were done filling out the forms, they stepped into Dr. Gbadebo’s office. He sat working at a laptop placed on a desk so cluttered with files, books, pamphlets and loose leaflets that it seemed impossible to fit just one more sheet of paper in . He looked up and motioned them to seat wherever they could find seats. When they were finally seated, he took off his spectacles and smiled at Claire. “The attendants are getting your mum settled into one of the visiting rooms, they should be done shortly” He sat forward his face taking on a more serious look before he continued. “Claire before I proceed, would you like your friends to wait outside?” She shook her head vigorously; Dr. Gbadebo clasped both his hands before him on the table and sighed before continuing.
“You need to understand that it will be difficult to have a proper conversation with your mum and she probably may not recognise you for more than a few moments.” He took a deep breath before continuing and Claire bravely kept eye contact with him, the only sign of emotion she showed being her knuckles squeezing hard against each other.
“If she does recognise you, she may keep talking about other things totally unrelated to things you tell her. I would encourage you to follow her trend of conversation; if you know what she is talking about, if you don’t, just listen and make the usual sounds of assent where necessary” The doctor paused, he spoke with family members all the time but having to explain this process to someone so young, so innocent and fragile looking took its toll on him.
“You can gently try to introduce other topics when she’s quiet, but nothing that could set her off” he paused again wondering if he was overloading the poor girl sitting opposite him emotionally. There was a gentle knock on the door and it was immediately pushed open, a giant of a man in the male nurse’s outfit stepped into the doctor’s office. “She’s ready Doc” His voice was surprisingly soft for a man of his size. The doctor stood up and all three visitors followed suit, he picked up his spectacles donned them, buttoned his jacket and gestured for the guests to lead the way. They walked down a long white washed corridor till they came to a line of doors identifiable only by letters, the big attendant stopped in front of a door with the letter “F” stenciled on and stopped with his hand placed on the door handle. Doctor Gbadebo who had overtaken the visitors as they walked down the hall turned to face them as they all came to a halt at “door F”.
“I think Claire should come in alone first”
“Okay sir” The boys chorused their agreement but Claire disagreed.
“No” Her response was firm, adamant even “Let’s all go in” she would not admit it, but she was really nervous, and she felt a sense of safety with the twins who had come all this way with her. They made her felt she could face anything, she didn’t know why but they made her feel everything would be fine.
“I just feel we shouldn’t stampede her with too many visitors at one” Doctor Gbadebo advised gently.
“They will be quiet Sir” Claire was adamant.
The Doctor shrugged and indicated that the attendant should let them in. They filed in after him, with the Doctor leading the way, Claire following right behind him and Tai bringing up the rear.
When Teniola eventually spoke, Ken could not believe that anyone could be capable of such betrayal. He refrained from interrupting as he was afraid Teni could breakdown at any interruption. She soldiered on to the end of her narration.
“I refused to believe at first that they just took off with my children, it didn’t make any sense, it still doesn’t” Tears were rolling down her cheeks but her tone was mechanical, it scared him a bit; looking into those eyes, they looked empty, soulless even as she spoke but he kept eye contact willing her to keep speaking, wanting her to speak but afraid to hear more.
“It just did not add up” Teni said “she was like a sister to me, the sister I never had, I shared everything with her, I told her about the pregnancy before I even told Ade.” She paused to wipe the tears off her face. “She wrote me every week, telling me how they were doing, how Ade was such a good dad…” Her sentences kept trailing off but Ken would wait patiently for her the resume speaking. “I refused to believe they just upped and left, it made no sense, it still doesn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone, I just kept hoping, it was more than hoping actually, I was really sure they would show up one day” She smiled as she said this, a really pained, really heart breaking smile and for the first time since she started speaking, Ken interrupted.
“Are you sure you want to go on babe?”
“Go on?” she stared at him blankly.
“Talking about this” he supplied.
“You want me to stop?” her blank stare was replaced with a look of irritation “I though you wanted to hear it all, why I am like this, why I can’t trust anyone, why I’m never going to care about anyone?” “I do” He said softly.
“So listen” she hissed, then stood up from where she lay on the bed, rummaged in her bag, came up with her pack of cigarettes and walked out of the door leading from the Ken’s bedroom to the balcony. After a few minutes, he joined her where she was leaning over the balcony smoking. “Can I have one?”
She passed him the pack and as he took the first drag and blew a plume of smoke skyward, she continued speaking without being prompted. “I should never have left them, but she was the closest I had to a sister, I would have trusted her with even my own life and he loved me he really did, it couldn’t all have been pretence.” She hissed and let out an expletive as the cigarette which had been idling between the middle and index fingers of her left hand burnt to butt and scorched her fingers, she let go of the offending cigarette butt and stuck both fingers in her mouth sucking on them to ease the burning sensation. Ken rubbed her neck unsure whether this was to show sympathy for her plight with these trusted people or for the pain of her burnt fingers.
“He wrote every week and so did she, they wrote unfailingly telling me how well the kids were doing, they wrote until I told them I was due back in a month. That was the last time I heard from them. They never replied any of my letters afterwards, but I wasn’t worried, I became worried only after I returned to the country and they were nowhere to be found. They had graduated and so had the few friends we had.” She stared into the distance for a long while and Ken waited with bated breath, afraid to prompt her in case he riled her again. She continued;
“I was supposed to come home, less than six months after I left, but Ade advised that I finish my post grad, as that would coincide with his graduation. They had been delayed even though they were ahead of me in school when I had left , what with the strikes and all. I had foolishly listened to him, maybe not foolishly because it had made sense, in less than a year we would be together, with our kids, with each other, forever.” a bitter smile crossed her face and then disappeared as she swatted a fly that buzzed close to her ear “How naïve I was. I was in denial when I came to Nigeria and they were gone, I had no one to turn to, I refused to go to the police, how could I? I went to the hospital but they had no information other than that she had stopped working with them as soon as school had resumed fully”
She occasionally smiled bitterly as she spoke “I asked my parents about her immediately I got home and they told me she had eloped with some Australian guy, ‘broke her mother’s heart, she just left a note saying her parents should not look for her and that she would be fine’ my dad had said. It got more confusing after that, I tried to find out more but they didn’t have much more information. I planned to go over to her parent’s place the following morning but Her mum came over that same night, and asked over and over what I knew about the Australian, she begged, threatened, cajoled, along with my parents, wanting to know where Julia was, but I had nothing to tell, I had no idea where she was, still don’t” she heaved a really deep breath and took one of her long breaks, taking time to light another cigarette and then taking several drags before speaking again.
“Several times, during the interrogations; her mum came over more than once, she even came with her dad once- I almost broke down and told them about my twins, about Ade, about what we had done, but I remained resolute, certain that they would one day show up with a perfectly reasonable explanation and make everything right again. I was certain this was no case of betrayal until the day I saw them at the airport”
Stay tuned for Episode 22 next week Friday. Please Like, leave a Comment, Share and Subscribe for our newsletters and notifications on new post.
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Categories: storytelling, written series
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