“Don’t stand there motionless. Get your father on the line. The earlier he takes off from Uyo the better for us all. And while you’re at it, call Kelvin too. Tafo, go get the car ready. You can still do that, right?”
As Tafo and Edi leave to carry out their instructions, dad and mum try to sit mama Edichie up and get her in a better position.
“Check that oxygen cyclinder.”
“I think it is empty.”
The drive to the hospital is mostly quiet, everyone staring ahead or fussing over Mama Edichie who is unconscious. To the people in the car, this is really not much different from her being dead. It takes mother, whose nursing career at least makes her know better, to reassure them.
At the hospital, she is quickly placed on oxygen again and her vital signs checked.
“She is alive… We would be admitting her. Who is her next of kin?”
Edi goes with the doctor while the others find seats.
No one is sure whether to broach the paternity topic at this point or not. Father is calling his friend again, not sure what Edi had told him exactly.
“You have to get down here fast. The doctor is speaking with Edward right now and i doubt it’s anything good. What don’t you understand? Your wife is closer to death than life and she still knows nothing about Jide. She deserves better!”
Tafo is obviously tired. She finds an unoccupied long seat and settles in to catch a nap. Her mind is made up to beat up anyone who tries to get her off the seat.
“Julius, i am sorry i doubted you…” Father nods and rubs mother’s shoulder affectionately. “Anyone would have had the same thoughts you had. I am sorry i kept it from you for so long. You know, i am glad that every one now knows…”
He pauses in reflection, “I am worried about Koko. Who knows what she has done now? Or where she even is…”
“You know your daughter, she would be back soon.”
Edi comes back to where they are. His eyes are red and moist. And he is biting his lower lip, a futile attempt to stall more crying.
“Hospice care. That’s all they can do.”
He goes on to explain what he understood from the talk with the doctor. Mama Edichie has ovarian cancer and as at now, it has spread to virtually every part of her body.
“Did he tell you how long she has?”
“Give or take, six months.”
The journey back home is the same as when they were going to the hospital. For a while.
“Why did you guys keep these things from us? We did not know things were this bad. Are we that… Distant?”
“My dear, this is not the time. Everyone is tired. Let’s all just rest. Today has been… Long.”
Kelvin arrives the next day, oblivious to what had happened. Edi had only asked him to come to Lagos urgently.
“Wow, slow down big brother. Where is Kokoma now?”
“We don’t know. She left in a cab. Her numbers have not been going through.”
“And the plan is? What of Jide? He still does not know the whole story.”
“Does anyone know the whole story? When dad arrives, we would contact him. As for Koko, we can only wait for her to come back.”
Mr. Edichie arrives on Saturday, three days after.
“Julius, thank you. And i am really sorry for putting you through all this.”
He asks Edward and Kelvin to follow him into the study. “Sit down, both of you. Your mum should be the first to hear this but given the current circumstances, i have to tell you guys first.”
Leaning against the door, he launches into the story of Jide’s mother. Olufunke Akorede.
“I raped her. When your mother and i got married, we waited four years before we had you, Edi. Two years into the marriage, your mother brought home a Yoruba lady to help out with work in the house. This lady was extremely hardworking and beautiful. She had spent a year with us when one night, i came home drunk.”
That night, Mrs. Edichie had planned to sleep over in her sister’s house. Funke had finished with her work in the main house and was leaving for the boys quarters.
“Funke, wait a while. Keep me company.”
They had talked and laughed for a while before his eyes had settled on her dark and beautiful face, taking in the purity of her eyes and her perfect mix of pink and black lips. Her dress was over sized but not enough to hide her pretty curves. He had tried kissing her but she moved away. Then, he hugged her, promising to take care of her. She stood up, asking to be allowed to leave.
“The rest of that night is too shameful for me to recount. About two months later, your mother had picked enough signs to conclude that Funke was pregnant.”
“Did she know it was you?”
“How could i have allowed that? Here we were still wondering why your mother had not taken in. How would she have taken the news? I lied against Funke. I said she had been sleeping around… Even though i knew she was a virgin.”
Having a pregnant woman in the house in her state was too much for Mrs. Edichie. So, she sent Funke away. Meanwhile, her husband kept tabs on her and asked his bosom friend,Julius Kanayo to also do the same.
“I wanted to take care of Funke and the baby but i had to keep your mother from knowing. That is why i asked Tafo’s father to use his account to send money regularly to Funke till she died and then to Jide once he was old enough.”
“So, Jide is older than Edi.”
“Yes. And right now, we need to find him.”
Someone was knocking on the door of the study.
“It’s me, Tafo. Uhm… Jide is in the sitting room.”
“I found out where Koko is but she is refusing to come back. Please tell me, is Mr. Kanayo my father?”
“No, he is not. I am.”
Mr. Edichie tells the story again. Telling how he always ensured money was sent to Funke.
Jide laughs bitterly, removing his glasses in the process, “She never touched that money. Not even when she was terribly ill and needed to have a surgery. She said she would rather die than use it. And she died.”
“I am sorry… Please, forgive me. I was drunk and stupid. And then i got scared and did even more stupid things. Jide, i did not intend hurting your mother … Or you. I was only trying to protect my family.”
“It’s alright… Does not matter anymore. The good thing is I can still marry Koko.”
“No. You can’t. I love her. She is mine.”
“Edward Edichie, what has come over you?!?”