At the hospital, Mr. Edichie, Mr and Mrs. Kanayo were already at the bed when Edi, Tafo and Kelvin walk in. They meet them talking in loud whispers, trying not to disturb the other patients.
“Uju, i am so sorry. I should have told you the truth.”
Mama Edichie smiles weakly, “Ifeh Edichie, i knew.”
“You knew… What?”
“Funke was too prim and proper to have been sleeping around. We did not have a security man then and the only man around, often, at that time was you. Besides, you wore your guilt on your sleeves. I just did not know she kept the pregnancy.”
Mr. Edichie holds his wife’s hands in his. This woman had known all along. Yet, she said nothing. Yet, she trusted him and never held it over him. She chose to make him happy instead.
“Julius, thank you for being a great friend. You kept his secret and saved our marriage. You also kept it from your wife and i know how difficult that could have been.”
Every one was still baffled as to where Mrs. Edichie had gotten the sudden energy from. Even though her voice was weak, her words were clear.
She was looking round at the faces of the families she had loved and cherished.
“Where is Koko? And Jide…?”
“They are not yet here ma but they would soon be.”
Tafo moved closer to the bed and knelt down. “I am sorry mama. I am so sorry. I should have treated you better. It was never your fault that Edi and me were not meant for each other. And being unfaithful to your son was not the solution. I also said many wrong things…”
“Get up Tafo. Please. You hurt me. But that was in the past. Right now, all i ask of you is that you find your own happiness especially for the child you are carrying.
As Tafo leans over to kiss her cheeks, Jide and Koko come in.
“Kokoma… Finally. I would not have rested till i saw you. But first, let me see my lost but found son.”
Koko smiled at the way mama Edichie called Jide her son. She had always known her to have a warm heart for people around her. If only she knew Koko could not marry him anymore.
Jide moves over to her side. She takes his face in her hands, looking at him, studying his features.
“You would take care of Kokoma for me. You would show her love. If she ever sheds tears because of you, i would haunt you.” She smiles, “i’m kidding.”
Koko is confused. “Does she not know who Jide is? Have you people not told her yet?”
Jide turns to face her. “I am not your brother, Koko. That may have been fun under other circumstances. I am Edi and Kelvin’s brother.”
Koko looks towards their parents for confirmation. They all nod. Her father has tears in his eyes.
“Daddy… I did not even stay to listen…”
She goes over to his side, apologising all the way even as she sheds tears of joy. She had no idea how he was able to keep the secret for all those years. But she was glad. Very glad. She hugs her father.
Turning away from him, she sees Jide on one knee, holding out a ring.
“Kokoma Ada Kanayo, you make me glad. Thinking about you everyday has become a necessity. I know these past few days have been tough for you. I want to make it up to you… Forever. I am certain Mrs. Akorede would fit you just fine. Will you marry me?”
In the excitement that followed Koko’s positive answer to Jide’s proposal, none of them noticed when mama Uju Edichie slipped back into unconsciousness. They had already launched into talks about the wedding plans when Koko noticed.
The doctor on call was alerted. And they were all asked to leave the room. Reluctantly, they filed out. Koko was the last to leave as she gave her second mother a kiss on her cheek, “Thank you mama Edichie.”
Somehow, they all knew that Mrs. Edichie was not going to come out of this one. She had fought her last battle. So when the call from the hospital came the the next day, they all knew.
“Mama is gone.” Edi had slid to the floor after receiving the call.
They were all there, having just finished breakfast; Mr. Edichie, Mr.&Mrs. Kanayo, Koko and Jide, Edi, Tafo and Kelvin.
“She got what she desired eventually. Two happy families. And a very happy Koko.” Tafo smiled through her tears as she stood up to hug her sister.
These sisters had fought an unnecessary fight and almost lost out on being there for each other. “I am so sorry for everything Koko.”
The burial ceremony was planned to be a short one. None of them had the strength to stay through a long service. Besides, they were sure mama Edichie would rather have them planning Jide and Koko’s wedding than mourning.
At the end of Edi’s tribute to his mother, he said,
For everything has its time
Tears and stars, all of them
For everything has its end
Smiles and suns, all of them.