Click to read Episode 3
Ibidun woke up with a start. She rolled off the bed and reached for the switch. The light came on. She looked around the room, panting heavily. The dream had seemed so real. She’d seen a woman staring out of her window, sobbing. As she opened her mouth to ask what the problem was, the woman had screamed.
There is no one there, Ibidun said as she glanced at the window the third time. What kind of dream was that? Why would a woman be sobbing in her room?
Ibidun checked the time. 6.30am. She’d talked with Silas till the early hours of the morning and her eyes were still heavy. She relaxed when she remembered it was a public holiday. She’d stay in bed till evening, see her Pastor and hang out with her friends in Cecilia’s house.
The dark feeling persisted. Ibidun knew she had to pray. Splashing water over her face, she sat on the floor and hugged her knees to her chest. She prayed silently.
Her father. There was a strong urge to see her father.
She threw on a bathrobe and went to her father’s room. Her step-mother opened it slightly.
‘Aunty Jumoke, I want to see my dad.’ Ibidun said.
Her step-mother hated it when Ibidun called her by her first name. Her father had pleaded with her to see Jumoke as her mother, she’d vehemently refused. She had only one mother and she was dead.
Her step mother frowned. ‘You can’t see him now.’
‘This is urgent. I want to see him!’ Ibidun said, raising her voice.
Her step-mother glared back at Ibidun. ‘I said you can’t see him now. He is sleeping. Can you just go back to your room please?’ She shut the door.
Fuming, Ibidun returned to her room. She didn’t want to cause a scene early in the morning but she was going to set the records straight with her step-mother later in the day. She had a right to see her father whenever she wanted.
She sat on her bed, thoughts flying in different directions. She prayed to see the day Aunty Jumoke and her irresponsible sons would disappear from the house.
Ibidun had to talk to someone or she’d explode. Every attempt to think calmly drove her thoughts back to her step-mother. She was sick and fed up of the woman. Who would listen to her this morning? Silas had a meeting with some clients. Cecilia was a better option. She had a listening ear and a mature mind that sometimes amazed Ibidun.
She tapped her phone screen. Was this a good time to call Cecilia?
Cecilia was having a hard time. Ibidun had seen her cry several times from abandonment. Her husband had been away for four years and had only visited when Samuel, her son was born. He was a business man somewhere in Europe and for years, he’d promised to relocate his family from Nigeria. He’d never made good on his promises.
Ibidun’s phone rang. Cecilia.
Her eyes widened in surprise as she answered the call. ‘You are indeed your father’s daughter. I was just thinking of calling you now. How are you?’
Cecilia laughed dryly.‘I’m surviving. Had a fight with my husband yesterday night. It’s hard to believe he is not cheating on me. I had to ask him what steps he is taking to bring us over. That was how he turned it to fight o. He kept saying, why will I question him?’
Ibidun didn’t know what to say. ‘You’ll be fine, right?’
Cecilia sighed. ‘I guess.’ she hesitated. ‘That’s not why I called you. I wanted to ask, are things good with your step-mother? It’s been a while we talked about her.’
Ibidun sighed deeply. ‘Can we ever be good? She will forever remain a thorn in my flesh. Since she came to this house, there’s been no peace. I don’t know why my father keeps defending her. It annoys me. Imagine, I went to check up on my dad this morning, she refused to let me in. What nonsense!’
Cecilia let out a deep breath. ‘I’ve been seeing her at Oni mental health centre.’
Ibidun looked confused. ‘What are you talking about? Cecilia, what are you doing at a mental health centre?’
Cecilia hesitated. ‘Let me confess my sins. Remember two years ago when I said I was traveling to see my mum? I lied. I was actually on admission at a private psychiatric hospital in Lagos.’
‘What! Cecilia, you didn’t say anything. I thought we were friends. Why did you keep this away from me?’
Cecilia didn’t respond to the question. ‘That was where I first saw your step-mother. She was in a room beside mine. I was skeptical at first but I remember she had this big birthmark on her chin. When I stumbled on her again a few days later, I was certain she was the one. She didn’t look good at all. I doubt if she recognized me.’
Ibidun couldn’t comprehend the revelation. Where was she two years ago? Was that the time she returned from youth service and had to travel to the North for an assignment?
Cecilia continued. ‘Two weeks ago, I saw her again at Oni. I was surprised. This morning, I felt a strong urge to talk to you about it.’
Ibidun went quiet. Her mind flashed back to a time she entered the kitchen to find broken plates scattered all over the floor. Her father was sweeping while her step-mother stood with her hands folded, watching him. Ibidun had flared up that evening. The only explanation was that her step-mother was a lazy and irresponsible woman. She’d asked her father what had happened. Who broke the plates? Why was he sweeping instead of his wife? He’d kept silent even though his face was full of pain.
She had to find out who her step-mother was. This time she was going to insist on answers. Why had her father married her? Where did she come from? Her father had said she was a widow he’d met on a trip to the United Kingdom. There had to be more than her father was letting out.
‘When are you coming over?’ Cecilia asked.
Ibidun didn’t answer at first. The news she’d just heard broke her heart. Shame and guilt filled her.
‘6pm. I want to stop over at the Pastor’s house first.’
‘Have you told him about Silas?’
‘Not yet. I’ll do that this evening.’
Ibidun heard the sound of a baby’s cry and knew Cecilia’s son was awake.
‘Ibidun, I’ll talk to you later. Let me attend to this boy.’
Ibidun ended the call and lay with her back. Her step-mother had been admitted in the psychiatric hospital? Why did her father not tell her about it? Compassion filled Ibidun’s heart. She’d barely talked to her step-brothers since they moved into the house. She considered them unruly and a nuisance. Had she been doing the right thing?
Lord, fill my heart with your love. I’m sorry that I have been self-centered for a long time. As you loved me and gave yourself to me, help me to give this love to others. I declare that I love my step-mother. I love her kids. I love Adanna. Lord, help me.
She decided she would make breakfast for everyone. It was a public holiday and she had enough time in her hands. She’d seen her step-mother make pancakes for the teen boys and knew they loved it. She would make pancakes and add toasted bread alongside.
Ibidun was surprised to see her step-mother in the living room. She was still in her pyjamas and a flowery bonnet sitting on her head. She stared blankly. Concerned, Ibidun moved closer. Her step-mother turned her way and looked away.
‘Good morning ma.’ Ibidun said. She wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be okay.
‘Your father is awake. You can see him now.’ She said quietly.
Ibidun sighed. ‘I was going to ask, should I make toasted bread for everyone. I was thinking of also making pancakes for the boys.’
The woman stood up and began to arrange the living room. ‘Just prepare yours. I’ll take care of my sons.’
‘It’s nothing. I-’
‘I said I will take care of my sons!’ her step-mother yelled, pulling out wipes from the pack. ‘What part of that don’t you understand? Your father will have pap.’
Tears burned Ibidun’s eyes. Why was this woman bent on building a wall between them?
In the kitchen, Fola, the elder of the two boys washed the dishes, grumbling. When Ibidun entered, he rinsed his hands quickly and left without saying a word.
Ibidun cleared the sink and made pancakes. She had to be patient, she thought.
For seven years, she ‘d been hostile to her step-mother and her kids. They were nothing but trouble and she had always looked forward to the day they’d leave the house. She’d be patient with them. She’d let them know she genuinely loved them.
Ibidun poured honey on the pancakes and took the tray to the dining room. Her step-mother had been replaced with her sons who played video games in the living room.
‘Pancake is ready. Who is interested.’ She said, trying to sound excited but feeling awkward.
The boys paused their game and looked in her direction. The elder returned his attention to the screen but his brother had his eyes on the pancakes. When he stood up, his brother followed. They rushed to the dining room.
Ibidun held the tray. ‘You can’t take the tray to the living room. You either eat here or you go face your video game.’
They sat down and tore at the pancakes hungrily. Ibidun smiled as she watched them.
She took her father’s food to his room. As she approached the door, she heard sobs. She stopped to listen. Her father was talking. He was not the one crying. The sobs came from her step-mother. Ibidun was confused for a moment. Should she enter or wait till a better time?
Her thoughts were cut short when the door opened and her step-mother stepped out, her eyes puffy. Their gaze held for a second but none said a word to each other. Ibidun took the tray into the room. Her father was lying on the bed, weak.
‘Dad, breakfast is ready.’ Ibidun said. She placed the tray on the bed and poured the hot steaming pap into a ceramic bowl.
Her father smiled weakly. ‘I love public holidays. I have my daughter to myself the whole day. Will you stay here with me?’
Ibidun nodded. ‘Yes dad. I have an appointment with my Pastor at 4pm. Within an hour or two, I should be back.’ She placed her hands around his neck and kissed his forehead. ‘I’ll cancel every other arrangement and I’ll be right here with you.’
‘You are a beautiful woman.’ He said, touching her cheeks. ‘I am so proud I have a daughter like you. Don’t ever allow anyone talk you down. You are precious.’
Ibidun’s heart was filled with love for her father. She moved closer to him. ‘I’m going to feed you.’
He chuckled. ‘I’ll love that.’ He took a spoonful. ‘I remember doing this when you were a year. You always wanted me to feed you.’
Ibidun noticed her father’s hands were trembling. They were frail. Tears filled her eyes. She remembered the days as a teenager, his strong hands lifted her from the ground every time she came home from boarding school.
When Ibidun fed him the last spoonful of the pap, he asked about Silas. ‘Give me updates.’
‘Silas is fine. I keep loving him everyday. We spoke well into the night.’
Ibidun went on to talk about how compatible she thought they were. She’d always been fascinated by intelligent men who knew how to treat women well. Silas fit into the picture of the man she wanted.
Her father hesitated. His eyes were heavy. ‘Take care of your emotions. Sometimes, you have to withdraw from him a little to hear the voice of truth in your heart.’ Her father stopped talking.
‘Dad, why do you say that?’
She didn’t get a response. He had fallen asleep. She removed his glasses and placed it on the beside drawer. Like a mother tendering to an infant, she shifted his head properly on the pillow and covered him with the blanket.
Something was wrong with her father even though she couldn’t exactly place what it was.
Heal my dad Lord. Your word says, if we ask anything in your name, you hear us. Whatever this sickness is, Lord take it away. Let my father be strong again.
Tears blurred her eyes. When was it that her father chased her round the house, as she laughed and hid from him. As an only child, she enjoyed his full attention. He’d tell her about his businesses, the ladies flocking around him and funny events that happened at the office. She missed the summer breaks, times when she went on vacations with her parents. Those sweet memories would forever be engraved in her heart.
She reached for his phone and checked his financial statement.
Her heart skipped.
Why was her step-mother doing this? She’d withdrawn another four hundred thousand again? Thank God she still had the six hundred thousand naira she whisked to another account for safe keeping. Was it possible that her step-mother was using the visits to the mental centre as a cover up?
She had to talk to her father’s sister. Mummy Ogbomosho. Something had to be done before her father gets killed. The compassion slipped away and was replaced by a burning anger for her step-mother.
Pastor Mayowa was getting ready to leave the house when Ibidun arrived. She apologized for coming late. She’d been with her father all day and was worried about his health. Would Pastor Mayowa come over to the house to pray for her father?
‘I have a trip scheduled for next week.’ The Pastor said, tapping his Ipad as he crossed his legs. ‘In two weeks, I should be there.’
Ibidun bowed slightly. ‘Thank you sir.’
The Pastor’s wife joined them in the living room. ‘We want to see Seun. I’m sure you are aware there was an accident some months ago where he knocked down a young man.’
Ibidun was aware. Seun worked with her in the ushering department in church. The news had reached her the day it happened. When the Pastor organized a prayer chain for the wounded man in a life and death situation, she had participated. The stewards in church rejoiced some days later when it was announced that the man had regained consciousness. Two weeks later, he was rushed back to the hospital. The doctor said his leg would be amputated. A prayer chain had kicked off again. The amputation didn’t happen but he had stayed in the hospital for a longer time.
‘He has been discharged.’ The Pastor said.
‘Thank God.’ Ibidun exclaimed. ‘Can I go with you?’
‘Sure but let’s talk about your reason for the visit.’ Pastor Mayowa leaned forward. ‘What’s up?’
Ibidun cleared her throat. Was this the best time to tell him about Silas? Why did she feel her Pastor would kick against the relationship?
‘Pastor, the Lord is leading me to get into a relationship with someone I met some months ago.’
Pastor Mayowa was quiet. ‘Is he a member of our church?’
‘No sir, but he is born-again. He lives in Abuja.’
The Pastor hesitated. ‘He has proposed to you already?’
How would she explain that Silas was not intending to marry her yet. They wanted to know each other before making any serious commitment to marriage. Her Pastor would not understand things like that. Few weeks ago, he’d spoken vehemently against getting into a relationship without a proposal.
You can be friends but the idea of the starting a relationship to figure out if it will work out is not God’s way.” he said. Emotions, according to him, blinds the eye.
‘Yes, he has proposed.’ Ibidun responded. It wasn’t exactly a lie or was it?
‘Have you prayed about it?’
‘Yes sir, I have.’
‘What’s his name?’
‘Silas. He loves God and He is a committed steward in his local church.’
‘We’ll talk about this later. I’d love to know your convictions. By the way, I was going to schedule a meeting with you on something similar to this discussion. This guy you talk about will have to join the queue.’
Ibidun looked at her Pastor, puzzled. ‘I don’t understand sir.’
‘Three brothers have approached me in the last two weeks. They said they’ve been led to marry you. I wanted to talk to you first. Brother Silas will have to be patient. I have to see him too and get to know the church he attends. There is no hurry Ibidun. ’
Ibidun was not listening to her Pastor again. Three brothers? Who could they be? Her eyes went to her male friends in church. Fiyin? Aduragbemi? Williams?
God forbid! it can’t be Williams.
Fiyin had invited her for a hangout thrice last month, was that his way of saying he was interested in her?
Aduragbemi, the head of Media, had been her friend from campus days but he never showed interest in her, or was he just hiding his intentions?
She was irritated. Why did they tell the Pastor first? If they were not cowards, they’d have at least given her a hint. She knew the Pastor had instructed that no brother proposes to a sister until the leadership was aware but she hated that idea. It was the reason she liked Silas. He was plain about his intentions, not hiding under the cloak of obedience to a spiritual leader.
On the way to Seun’s house, Remilekun called. She went hysterical when Ibidun informed her she was on her way to see Seun.
‘Babe, I’ve been begging you for weeks now. You know how I feel about Seun. Help me do this research abeg. I want to know where I stand in his heart. You must make that findings today o’
Ibidun wanted to say more. She turned briefly to Pastor Mayowa and his wife at the back seat.
‘I’ll send you a chat.’ She said to Remi, putting the phone close to her lips.
She typed quickly.
Remi, we are going to visit a man Seun almost killed and you want me to ask if he is interested in a sister. Babe, bad timing niyen now. Let’s do this research another time.
She had barely finished typing when a chat from Silas dropped on her phone.
Ibidun, I wake up every morning hoping to get a response from you. Is it going to take a year before you give me an answer? Just know that I love you.
Ibidun’s head fell back on car headrest. How was she going to respond to his message now? How would she tell him Pastor Mayowa had not given a go-ahead. Would he not call her a coward? She knew exactly what his reply would be.
He’d laugh and say, ‘Ibidun! I just want you to be my girlfriend. I want to get to know you and see if there is a possibility of us getting married. Why did you have to tell your Pastor?’
Sometimes, she regretted joining her church. She loved the Pastor and his wife but sometimes she considered them ‘over-religious.’
God is not that difficult…or is He?