About an hour later, I called Dapo to let her know we were at the gate.
“Did you get a cab?” That was the first thing Dapo asked.
“We got something better. Kobeth brought us in his car.”
“Who is that one again? All these names sef. I thought it was Kezia.”
My friend’s confusion was funny, “Kobeth is Kezia’s twin brother.”
“Just great. Two beautiful light skinned people to mock our melanin.”
“How do you know he is beautiful?” My right eyebrow was raised at her as she tried to unlock their gate.
She got the gate unlocked before answering, “Have you looked at Kezia well? Do you think anything or anyone can afford to spend nine months with her and come out ugly? No, ma, not possible.”
I was glad Dapo was still able to make funny remarks but I knew they were also her defence mechanism to not break down. As Kobeth drove in, I asked how bad the situation was.
“She hasn’t had a proper bath in three days, I have been towel sponging her. Her hair is a mess of tangled clumps and she has been in the same gown since. I am scared.”
I hugged her, patting her back and assuring her that everything would be fine. Kezia and her twin brother met us that way. I cleared my throat so Dapo could get herself together.
“Kezia, you’ve met Ifedapo before. Kobeth, this is my best friend, Dapo. Dapo, meet Kobeth Nnamdi.”
I watched my friend shake hands with the handsome, soft spoken Kobeth and somehow, I knew they were going to be more than just friends. But that was not priority at that moment.
“Dapo, where is your mum?” I decided to take charge.
Dapo and Kezia carried the twins and the bag that had been earlier packed. I helped Kobeth get Pastor (Mrs) Duduyemi down the stairs and into the back seat of the car.
The woman I knew as Dapo’s mum was tough, yet, fun and lively. She loved young people and was doing well with the adolescent arm of HLA ministries. This woman we were taking back to UCH was a shadow of her, a malnourished shadow for that matter. She zoned between total silence and seeming delirious wails about her miserable life, talking about life being vanity.
“If this was someone else and mummy was here, she would have started praying for the person. I so want to pray but I don’t think I can even find the words.” Dapo was tearing up again as she held her mum on the right side while I did on the left.
“In Jesus name…”, Kobeth started praying as he drove, committing the situation to God’s hand and asking for quick recovery for our friend’s mum.
Dapo’s surprised face matched mine as we shared a look. I smiled at the shy but pleased smile lighting up her face.
“… And Lord, please help the sweet lady at the back stop crying and receive strength.”
As we all chorused Amen, it was all I could do from screaming my elation. Of course, Ifedapo was the sweet lady in Kobeth’s prayer. Of course.
“Yes, who is there?” Jed sauntered lazily to the door to answer whoever was knocking at 8am on a Sunday morning.
“Mum?” His mother was standing at the door, a light green lace iro and buba adorning her plump body.
“Yes, it is your mum. I figured, if Mohammed was not going to meet the mountain, the mountain had no choice but to come meet Mohammed.”
“And who is the mountain?” Jed rolled his eyes at his mum’s attempt to make him feel guilty.
Jed stepped aside as she entered his house, a place she had only been to twice, this time being the second. The man who followed her in paused mid stride to look at him. He gave no greeting and moved in to sit opposite his mum in the parlour.
“Okay, who is he?” Despite being told severally while growing up that pointing directly at an adult is rude, Jed had no issues doing just that.
“Pastor Akinjare Duduyemi. Founder and General Overseer of His Light Appears Ministries..”, it seemed she paused for effect before saying, “… And your father.”
Jed had been standing all through his mum’s introduction of the man. When she was done, he walked to the door, opened it and gestured outward, “I think it is time to leave, the both of you, especially you, sir.”
The man made to stand up but his mum pulled him back to his seat.
“We are not leaving, Jedidiah. Your father came to see you and talk. Sit.”
Jed slowly closed the door but remained standing.
“Please sit… Jed…”, The man calling his name felt so irritating, yet so… Normal, “I owe you a lot of apologies. I’d start by saying, I didn’t even know you existed.”
Jed snickered. “You mean you thought she flushed me down the toilet like the others.”
Pastor Duduyemi looked down at his shoes, clasping and unclasping his fingers, “Yes, you are right. I was young and stupid and lost. I was not ready to be a father, not even a husband.”
“That’s not the version I have heard all my life. If you were not ready, how come you got married three months after?” Jed was looking at the both of them, anger and pain evident in his eyes. His dad shifted in his seat to face his mum squarely as he asked, “What lies have you fed him?”
His mum had this guilty look, “Actually, Jed, I exaggerated. It was three years and some months before he got married.”
“You are no better than I am mum. So, what else have you been lying about? And Mr. Daddy, why are you here now?”
“I really don’t want to have anything to do with your mum and she knows. However, I can’t leave a son of mine hanging out there in the world alone. I am happily married with three… No, five children who need me more than I’ve been around in recent times. Your mother has been allowing herself be a devil, causing trouble in my home, all in the name of getting my attention… Can you imagine all…”
His father went on and on about his mother’s atrocities and the recent effect on his wife, his voice getting louder and angrier.
“Enough!” Jed silenced his father’s rant and sat down, “Mum, I didn’t quite know how to put this to you all this while but I think the summary is, you have a psychological problem. Why would you go sending images to his wife? And wait, how do you even still have those pictures… 27years after?”
“Wait. Who told you he stopped seeing me after he got married?”
It was Pastor Duduyemi’s turn to shift uncomfortably with guilt on his seat. “Jed, it was just once…”
Jed was stunned. “I thought you said… Happily married. Aren’t you a man of God? I understand if a heathen like me can’t control his urges but you… What happened to the Holy Spirit?” Jed almost laughed at himself but continued instead, “I’d get back to that. Mum,you wanted his attention, yet, you didn’t tell him about his son even though you still met up with him. Who does that? Sounds foolish and wicked. And as for you, sir, I would think that confessions are made before marriage and even if issues like this come up during marriage, you don’t wait too long before sorting them out. Both of you, present or absent, are the reason why I am who I am.”
“You are right. But you are also wrong. We all have to choose our way of life…” Pastor Duduyemi’s voice was low even as he tried to step in.
“Preacher, save the preaching for next week Sunday. Mum, you need help.”
His mum got up, anger evident in her demeanor. She left the house and they soon heard her drive off.
“Son, I need you to forgive me. It has been a heavy burden not being true and plain with my wife. I know I can’t give you back the years lost but I want to try from now on.”
Jed nodded slowly, “I won’t mind that… Dad… And I’d like to meet my siblings.”
Pastor Duduyemi brought out his phone and opened his gallery, “I don’t have pictures of the twins yet… I left… Never mind. But, here is Tofumi, he was the last born before the twins came along. This is JJ, she is finishing up from secondary school and this is Ifedapo… My first daughter, my princess.”
Anguish filtered fast across Jed’s face as he recognised Ifedapo from the picture, he stood up staggered back a little, “Oh my God!!! This lady.. Oh my . she is your daughter?” Jed cradled his head in his hands.
“What is it? Do you know her? How?” His dad was concerned.
“Do you know Immaculate James?” Jed was already looking for his car keys.
“Yes, yes, that’s Ifedapo’s closest friend, somehow like a daughter to me. They are both 500level medical students. Why?”
“I don’t think I can go with you. I did something very stupid, something that would forever haunt me, especially now that Ifedapo would be my sister.”
“This isn’t a would be situation. She is your sister. Talk to me, what happened?”
“I don’t think mum has told you about me. I’m the worst person to call a son. I’m glad you came for me, sure, but I don’t think I deserve to go with you.”
They were at the car now, Pastor Duduyemi turned his newly found son to face him, “Look at me. I had enough time to confess to my wife my dealings with your mum. I didn’t. I kept postponing it, telling myself the work of the ministry was more important. I almost lost my wife, my twins, my family. Whatever you’ve done wrong, the earlier you make it right, the better. You can tell me, maybe I can help.”
“Sir, I… I can’t tell you just yet. But, I agree that postponing things won’t make them any better. Let’s go meet them.”
“Hello? Joel, yes, we are already at the emergency unit. What? I thought you weren’t to be discharged yet. Uhm, okay? You left, because? You are just impossible. Okay, we’d be outside.” I put my phone away after the call, recalling the rush down to the hospital in Kobeth’s car.
The psychiatrist on call had been informed of our arrival, the consultant in charge of Pastor (Mrs) Duduyemi, Dr. Sobanke, also came around and so did Dr. Mamoud. The twins had been taken to the intensive baby care unit.
It took almost an hour after we arrived to get everything settled but we eventually did. Having four of us around sure made it easier to get the consumables and necessary drugs. When we were done, we all converged in front of the emergency building while waiting for Joel to join us after he called.
“Imma, what’s up with Joel?” Dapo was whispering so Kezia and Kobeth wouldn’t hear.
I whispered back, “Summary being, you would be shocked at this Joel. He has changed. Long story.” Dapo would have to see and understand by herself.
It was quiet for a while before I spoke to her again, “I think you should try your dad’s numbers again.”
Dapo rolled her eyes as if to say, “Of what use would that be?” but she still brought her phone out to try her dad’s numbers the hundredth and one time.
“It’s ringing…”, Dapo almost screamed, drawing Kezia and Kobeth’s attention, “Daddy? Daddy!!! Hello?” She looked at the screen, the call had ended.
I suggested it could be a problem with the network. Sometimes, I wondered if there was an invincible wall surrounding the hospital area that deliberately made network poor. It was the same with our seminar rooms where we had majority of our lectures. I wondered how they expected us to learn how to google our way out of unknown missile-like questions thrown at us during such times.
Dapo’s phone started ringing while I was still talking. She picked it, already moving away from us.
I saw Joel before he saw us.
How didn’t I see this guy since? Tall, handsome, chocolate skinned like me. Very intelligent. Once upon a time shy, now confident and endearing. Sigh… Stop it, Imma. The baggage you have right now Js too much to dump on any guy. Look at all that’s happened to you, do you think any guy deserves to have to deal with that? He is a good friend, leave it at that. Don’t go spoiling things.
“Hey guys!” Joel beamed warm smiles at all of us, “I see everything seems calm now. Thanks, Kobeth, for coming at such short notice. And Kezia, for not strangling Imma as you originally planned.”
Kezia’s laugh was loud, “How did you know that was my plan? Well, listening to Imma recount her ordeal with Lade made me realize I had misjudged her. And knowing Lade, I knew she wasnt lying.”
At Joel’s room, both of us had exchanged accounts of Jed getting violent and abusive with us. Kezia, of course, had more of the stories, five years afforded her that. For both of us, it was a mixture of unbelief and hope that had stopped us from walking out and never looking back the first time he laid his hand on us. My stay with him was barely two months but it seemed I got the shortest end of the stick. Apart from the few times he had raised his voice at me and shoved me a little, the only time I had gotten the full treatment was also when he raped me. Kezia had never refused him sex because she always thought they would eventually get married. Well, we both knew better now.
Joel turned to me and before I could wave hello, he hugged me and whispered, “How do you still look beautiful in the midst of all these?”
I felt myself blush as I hugged him back, allowing myself the comfort of being called beautiful, at least for that moment.
Ifedapo came back and literally pulled us off each other. “Guys, my dad is coming. He mentioned coming with someone but as that is not my business, I didn’t probe. What matters is my prodigal father is coming back. Imma, thank God you told me to call him. They were on their way home.”
I was happy for her. The way things looked, it seemed heaven was finally smiling down on us all.
“Imma”, Kobeth looked at Ifedapo even though he was talking to me, ” is there someplace where we all could, I don’t know, maybe sit down. I don’t know about you guys but my legs are killing me and I am hungry.”
Ifedapo’s nodding was threatening to fall her head off so I reached out to stop her, “Yes, let’s go to that room over there. It is usually for staff and medical students that are ill. I think it is currently empty. Dapo, text your father, let him know where we are.”
We all drifted towards the staff consulting room. I got some snacks for all of us so we could at least munch on something while we waited.
I sat with Joel, Kezia took a place by the wall, giving space for Dapo to sit beside Kobeth. I figured I wasn’t the only one seeing the chemistry between those two.
Twenty minutes later, Pastor Duduyemi stepped in. Dapo sprang up to hug him, tears instantly filling her eyes. Her father kept saying how sorry he was, how he wished he didn’t have to go.
“But why did you go? Why?” Dapo was sobbing into her father’s chest.
The rest of us just looked on, unable to join in the hug and unable to continue with the snacks. Crunchy potato chips fighting molars and premolars wasn’t the exact background music appropriate for the moment.
“Dapo, I went to make amends. Some things I had done were left unfinished and had to be completed to save our marriage and family… And to save my son.”
“Your son? Tofumi is alright, dad.”
“I know… Not Tofumi, I mean my other son, your elder brother. Susan’s son.”
“I’m confused…” Dapo had pulled away from her father and was looking up at his face.
“I’d explain fully later on. Let me call him in.”