“Olajide, I am glad you finally came home.”
She searched his eyes, hoping to see something that would assure her that everything was alright but she found nothing.
He stood there, rigid, while she hugged him tight and touched his face, kissed his forehead and squeezed him tight like a little boy.
“I know I hurt you all but I am sorry, I want you to forgive me. I cannot live a day without you… please.”
She said to her son, her heart breaking.
She looked a very strange version of herself.
The whole situation had humbled her. Gone was the woman who seemed in charge and who seemed strong.
Dark circles had encircled her eyes from lack of sleep and her eyes looked weary.
He managed a smile, pulled her by the hand and led her to a seat. “You look like you have not been sleeping.” he said to her.
She could not sleep because she was haunted even in her sleep.
The terrible things she’d done followed her from the physical to her dreams, they chased her, haunted her, didn’t leave her alone.
He looked for the maid in the house and did not find her.
When he returned, he was with a clean glass and a bottle of cold water.
He sat opposite her and handed her both the glass and the bottle of water.
She collected it, her hands shaking. She was weak.
He collected the bottle and glass and poured her water, then he sat close and raised the glass to her lips.
He helped her drink water.
She drank everything, every single drop and he poured her yet another glass. When she had drank all the water, he stood, went to the window, pulled the curtains apart and turned on the AC.
The light that flowed into the house when he pulled the curtains apart revealed more the sadness that had engulfed his mother.
He had never seen her like this.
“When last did you have a bath?” He asked her.
She relaxed on the couch, she honestly couldn’t remember.
The last contact she had with water was the day Chris had thrown her into the tub but because her memory was slow, because she had spent time alone in the house after firing the maid, everything was hazy and she had lost track of time.
She shrugged and then realized that even that simple action was hard for her.
She did not have any strength left in her, weakness had become her.
He helped her up and led her into her bedroom, then he helped her out of her clothes and gently pushed her into the bathroom.
“I will be here waiting for you, go and have your bath.”
She looked at him, as if to ask if he was speaking the truth.
She did not want him to leave.
That made him smile sadly. It made him pity her, it made him feel bad.
She was sorry, she was feeling terrible and she was his mother still.
It was like Tamilore had told him before she left for Ghana a week before, she was still his mother no matter what happened and even though she erred, she needed to be forgiven.
“I am not going anywhere, mom. I’m staying here with you for the next few days. At least until my flat is furnished.” he said to her and that lit her up.
She nodded like a little child and shut the door behind her.
Alero’s legs were on the table, her second apple in her hands as she waited for Agnes in the spacious kitchen.
She had been waiting for three hours and she was ready to wait for a longer period.
Sam had helped her get here.
Sam wanted her to get freedom, wanted her to find herself and wanted her to be bold for the first time in her life.
Sam did not want her back, no.
But she loved her and she wanted her to be independent because she could be only if she tried.
She heard the front door open and close then she heard voices. Alero remained in her position, reaching for her third apple.
Then she heard the voices approach the kitchen.
As they approached where she was, their conversation became clearer.
“She is your daughter, you should be kinder is all I am saying.”
“She should have remembered that before she tried to defraud me.”
“But Agnes, she would have wished she did it after you die because she would have realized nothing you have is in her name.”
“That is not an excuse for trying to steal from me, Esther. I don’t care what you think.”
They walked into the kitchen and stopped dead when they found her in the kitchen, chewing on an apple, looking like Nicki Minaj with a colorful wig and a leather catsuit.
They were further shocked when their eyes fell on the weapons near her on the dining table.
There was a knife, a gun and a broken bottle.
She followed their eyes as it fell on the weapons and looked up at her.
“Hi Mom. Aunty Esther.” She greeted, “I brought us all some toys to play with.” she said referring to the weapons on the table.
Esther was scared, she started to retreat her steps.
Alero noticed her.
“Ahn ahn, Aunty Esther. There are enough toys to go around, why don’t you wait and join us. I could hand you the gun or the knife or would you prefer the broken bottle?”
She asked calmly in a sweet voice as if she was asking them to make a choice on a spread out buffet.
Esther panicked, “Alero, I was just telling your mother how you both can sort this out. Please…”
Alero stopped her with a wave of the hand, stood and approached them.
“Nonsense, Aunty Esther. We all know my mother does not like sorting anything out, not even her messed up life. She prefers to fight, she loves war.”
Alero looked at her mother, “Abi mummy?”
Agnes said nothing and so Alero continued, “Or isn’t that how you deal with your friends? Like dem Ademola Rogers that you ruined their family for nothing.”
Agnes remained calm.
“I just wanna play, mother. I just wanna play.” She continued to say. “On my way here tonight, I thought it would be unfair to play a game without handling you a pad and that’s why I brought weapons for you too.”
She looked back at the table, “Which do you want?”
Esther looked like she would cry. “Alero, please don’t do this.”
Alero shrugged. She returned to the table and picked the gun.
“You controlled me all my life, refused to love me for who I really am and refused to be there for me. You made me believe if I did you for a second and stopped doing me that everything would be fine, that the sun would shine again, yet you were there planning to screw me over.”
Agnes eyed her and the gun, “You’re a stupid little girl if you were thinking I would have given you all I own.
You’re a lesbian, a senseless one who thought she could get my money and run off. Or you think I wouldn’t know that?”
If Sam had not been in Nigeria with her partner and heard from someone that Agnes was dying and she was leaving her wealth to her sister Esther who wanted to invest it in building the biggest health facility in Nigeria, Alero would have still thought the woman she called mother cared.
But now she did know she didn’t, she knew she was going to screw her over and it hurt.
She had lived her entire life not accepting herself because the woman before her wouldn’t let her and the only thing she thought she would get was never going to be hers.
The woman hated her and for no reason.
And she hated her too.
“Since your weapon of war is to find secrets about people and use it to bring them down, I did my assignment by thinking like you.”
“What are you talking about?” Agnes asked
“Oh, mother everyone’s got secrets.”
Alero smiled sweetly, “Mother, tell your dearest sister that the child who is her niece is also her step daughter.”
Esther gasped, “What are you talking about?”
“Oh Aunty Esther you didn’t know? I’m your step daughter. Its the reason you probably got all those millions.” Alero said armed, ready to do proper damage.
Esther faced her sister, “Agnes what is she talking about?”
“Yes mother, what am I talking about?”
Agnes looked away from the two of them.
“You had Alero for my husband.” Esther said slowly, the hurt spreading through her like a crack in a glass. “You bitch.” she seethed, causing Alero to chuckle.
“Mother, you’re also responsible for the death of more than two hundred children in the North.” Alero brought out her phone and repeated the statement after hitting record, “The kids who died because of poisonous noodles you supplied a school that was built on a property you considered yours. You killed the kids because you wanted to prove a point to the government about the owner. Right?”
Her mother said nothing.
“Right?” Alero repeated, pulled the trigger and shot at the wall when Agnes would not answer. “Right?!”
Agnes would not budge, she refused to go down.
She marched past Alero picked the knife on the table and hurled it at her.
The knife hit Alero on the shoulder, causing her to bleed.
Alero lowered her hand, holding her shoulder in pain.
“We go down together if I go down bastard” her mother snarled.
“No. Alero said, you go down alone.” Then she fired a shot, causing Agnes to fall.
The shot had hit her on the leg and so Alero walked closer, watching her hold her legs and wincing in pain.
“Guess who is on top now mother.” Alero said coldly. “Its your baby girl. How tables turn huh?”
Esther was holding her clothes, sobbing like a little girl. “Agnes… Agnes…”
Sam burst into the kitchen and saw Agnes on the floor.
She grabbed Alero and took her out of the kitchen and then out of the house.
“You were supposed to scare her and make her see what she did was horrible.” Sam said to her, dabbing at the blood on her arm with her handckerchief.
“She hurt me. I hate her.” Alero said with no remorse.
“I know.” Sam concentrated on stopping the blood.
“Why are you helping me, Sam?”
“I’m in love with you.”
Sam shrugged. “It hurt to be walked out on but what would hurt more would be to see you stay fucked up by a woman who never gave a rat’s ass about you.”
Alero managed a smile.
“Let’s get you first aid treatment.” Sam said and started the engine.
Esther was watching her bleed.
It was not because she did not want to help it was because she could not help even if she wanted.
She was weak, tired, exhausted.
“I wonder how she knew… how she found out and how she screwed you over without you knowing it.” Esther said to her sister who was losing more blood by the minute.
They had been there for hours and if Agnes survived the experience, she was not likely to ever walk with her wounded leg again.
“I’m sorry, Esther. Please get me to the Hospital.” Agnes was losing her strength.
She could have dragged herself to the door but she somehow couldn’t.
“No. You deserve to be here till you die.” Esther muttered.
“I trusted you twice and twice you threw my trust back at me. You don’t deserve to live. You deserve the unhappiness you wish the whole world.”
Esther stood and left the kitchen. The money would be Alero’s. She wanted none of it.
Agnes tried not to shut her eyes as the tiredness enveloped her but the more she fought, the harder it became.
Soon she succumbed, she closed her eyes and allowed the darkness to overcome her.
“You’re pregnant.” Timilehin said calmly.
Yetunde replied, “Yes.”
Timilehin nodded. He had sex with her without condoms, he should have expected anything.
But he was not in love with this woman and not even his baby would make him marry her.
“Fine. You would have the child. You will not tamper with it.” he said.
“But there would be no commitment. You are the same Yetunde I know and my baby inside of you would not change the woman you are. So here is what we would do, you would raise our kid and I would help you with it. I would be with you every step of the way, I would be in the baby’s life but I would not be in your life.”
The words stung because she had gotten pregnant because she hoped it would change him and make him ready for her.
“I will transfer half a million into your account, start getting ready for baby. I will be in Mexico for business for three months, I would see you then.”
“Yetunde, I am in love with another woman. You knew that and that fact still hasn’t changed. Don’t make me look like the bad guy here. I would always be here for you and our child but we can never have a commitment.”
She smiled sadly.
She had made a mistake with this gamble. Now she was going to have to deal with it.
He studied the bible, he missed her terribly and he prayed more often.
“Make this easier if its meant to be Lord” he prayed silently while he made a breakfast of bread and scrambled eggs for his mother.
The light had returned to her eyes, her appearance was brighter now and she smiled more often.
When she joined him at the dining table some minutes later, she said, “I know your father would never forgive me but I want him to know how sorry I am. I’ve decided to face the Church and confess my sins in front of them after doing it with God.”
He covered her hands with his, “I’m here for you.” he said to her, realizing that the more he was willing to open up, the more God’s grace became sufficient for him.
“Thank you.” her voice was thick with emotions, her eyes filled with unshed tears.
“Thank you for this forgiveness that I don’t deserve and that I know is hard. Thank you.”
He smiled at her and returned to his food. “Your birthday is on Sunday. Do you have plans?”
She scoffed, “That’s the last thing I remember now my dear.” then she returned to her food.
Aunty ‘Molola was sitting at her dressing table and was getting off the phone with Tamilore when her husband walked into the bedroom.
He had a grim look on her face as he approached her, confirming her fears that he was having an affair.
“Molola there is something I need to show you.” He said and she nodded.
She stood and followed him out of the room.
The loud noise that welcomed her was almost deafening.
When she got over the initial shock, she tried to understand what was going on.
Her husband got on his knee and retrieved a shiny black box. “We’ve been through a lot my love and I know how bad you feel about things not going the way we want it. But God knows best and I know He wants us to stay happy. So I want you to remember every day and every second that I love you and I will always be there for you. Happy Anniversary.”
He revealed the ring in the black box to her.
She knew nothing about rings but she knew the diamond one that sat in the box and stared back at her must have cost a lot.
“Marry me all over again.” He said as he pulled out the ring in her finger and and replaced it with the one in the box.
She smiled, looking at all the guests in their house and wondering how he had pulled this off without her realizing it.
But she was not feeling too well, she grabbed him as she swayed, trying not to fall.
But she fell anyway, slipping into consciousness as he held her.
It took him months to track his father down and more months to bring his parents together under the same roof.
But God helped him every time he thought he could not do it.
Now as they both sat across each other, he watched them purge emotions, watched them try to sort their differences and agree on staying apart for a few months while they watched and listened to every sign from God.
Jide knew it might take a long time before his family came together again,but they would.
He knew that.
He returned to his apartment that night and listened to an old christian message on forgiveness and love.
He made himself a bowl of chicken sauce after and browsed through Tamilore’s blog, placing orders for a retro shirt and 50s shoes.
He missed her terribly.
It had been almost a year since she left and they talked just once in a while because she wanted them both to find themselves.
He wanted to see her but he knew he had to wait.
His order would come in three days he was told.
He walked to his closet and picked out the clothes for the next day.
Aunty Molola was heavy, she made her way slowly to the sitting room, her husband helping her through.
When she saw Tamilore she screamed in excitement.
They talked, caught up on the past months and shared exciting moments.
Tamilore told her she had found God in a way she never expected, she was making so much money from her business it was overwhelming.
She was glad she took time off to find herself, now she felt she was really ready for love.
“I’m glad you are this new person.” Aunty Molola said.
Segun joined them later and asked to take them out for a movie.
While they sat in the movie theatre watching the movie, Tamilore ran the events of the past year in her mind and she realized that even when humans condemned her, God never did.
She had been a work in progress, she still was.
His order was supposed to arrive that night, he walked to the door, opened it and expected to see the courier company that usually delivered the goods but who he saw at the door was not who he’d expected to see.
She walked into the house, his order in her hands.
She looked different, clad in a Victorian inspired dress and yellow wedges, she looked beautiful.
Her ‘fro was full and pretty, complimenting and accentuating her facial features.
“Hello Stranger.” She called and winked.
He ran to her, hugged her tight and held her like his life depended on it.
“Suga Spice.” he muttered and she giggled.
Months before she would have snapped, now she just smiled.
She was home. He was home.
“I missed you so much. I missed you so very much.”
She kissed him on the forehead, “I missed you too, handsome. But don’t worry, mummy’s home.”
He nodded, “Thank you.”
“Love is when you love that person who is hard to love. Love is what God has for us despite our flaws… The Church is not your ready made place, it is a place where you are being made every day. Your spiritual leader is not your God, by all means never forget that. We are all learning, all getting moulded into who he wants us to be.”
She continued to speak to the spell bound and half empty auditorium.
The church had been torn apart when her secret came out and now that she’d returned, it was very few people that remained.
She had learnt, she had been humbled – brought down on her knees by her creator and she had found out that she was nothing before Him.
She continued to speak to the Church, minutes later after she was done, the hall erupted in a standing ovation.
“Please welcome my husband, the man of my dreams, the one who loved me when I did not deserve it, your pastor, Ademola Rogers.”
They clapped, they screamed when he hugged her and kissed her on the forehead.
Grace returned to her seat a changed woman, near her was Jide and near him his fiancee, Tamilore.
Grace smiled at them as she took a seat and squeezed Tamilore’s hands.
“I love you, baby girl. I just realized I have not said that today.”
Tamilore smiled, “I love you too”
And as the two women faced their pastor, they realized it was easier being with God than being on the other side.
Yetunde watched her Pastor as she took a seat.
She was due for her baby any time now and it had been easier than she’d expected.
She was sitting somewhere alone in the back row and when she closed her eyes to mutter a prayer she did not know God was going to answer her when she opened it.
He was someone from her past.
The one who had once wanted to spend the rest of his life with her but who she pushed away.
“Maxwell” she called.
“Tamilore told me where to find you. I called her yesterday” He began to say then whispered the rest of the words in her ears, “I know you’re pregnant and your life seems like a nightmare right now, but do you think you can make room for me there? I promise you I won’t ever break your heart”
She smiled at him.
She did not deserve Tamilore’s forgiveness or this man’s reappearance in her life yet she got it.
God was no man.
Thanksgiving dinner was at the Ademola Rogers later that evening. Alero had been invited by Grace because Agnes was dead and she wanted Alero to know she had nothing against her family.
Alero came and left for Dubai where she would be for the rest of her life but not without telling Tamilore how proud of her she was.
“I know its silly to say I’m proud of you seeing as we don’t know each other much but I am proud of you as a woman, as a strong woman, a woman who is fiercely loyal no matter what.”
Tamilore smiled and squeezed her hand.
“I’m proud that you have decided to find yourself at last, Alero. Always talk to God, He would let you know which you He wants you to be.”
Yetunde and Maxwell attended the dinner with the family.
“This is to Deacon Okpokoro, who helped me through the hardest times of my life.” Ademola Rogers toasted. “God bless you Deacon.”
They drank, laughed, shared jokes as the night drew to an end.
When Yetunde was ready to leave, she sought her sister out and hugged her tight. “Thank you for not being a bitch to me even when you should have”
“This is who God and Lamide want me to be to you.” She said.
Later that night as Jide drove Tamilore back to her apartment, they held hands, each thanking God for how far they’d come.
And each looking forward to the future ahead.
-Tomilola Coco Adeyemo